Our Journey through the Desert and Back Again
It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on our journey across America. In fact, it’s been a full ten months since I wrote the last blog post. (You can find that here.) I know many of you have been wondering, “What about Hawaii?”, “When will they get to Hawaii?” And to be honest? We were wondering the same thing for almost half a year. This is one of the reasons I’ve taken so long to give an update–any update–on where/how/when we were going. It’s hard to tell others what the plan is, when you don’t even know yourself, right? Right.
To sum up the past few years (for those that my have missed it or just plain forgot!) our adventure west began shortly after Tim’s mother, Irene, passed away in 2011. Over a matter of months both Tim and I felt led by God to begin selling our stuff and pairing down what we owned. We also sold our house and moved into a rental so we could be ready to “go where God led” when the time was right. Fast forward to January 2015, and we finally felt like we got a clear answer on exactly where to go: Hawaii. It took a year and a half and countless confirmations to finally get us out the door and headed in that direction. We landed in Phoenix, AZ simply because the logistics of moving a family of five (and the possessions we still had) across the pond to an island was much easier said than done. We decided to move in faith and let God handle the details, as He had been doing thus far.
But what do you do when God has given you a direction and then things don’t turn out the way you had planned? What is a family supposed to think when God has laid it on their hearts to adopt a child, yet at every turn the paperwork is denied and the process seems to move backwards and not forwards? Or what about that person who feels led to begin a ministry, yet each time they seek to begin the work, something stands in the way and brings things to a halt? For years I’ve known countless Christians that have faced these very situations, even though God has clearly given them the desire and motivation to do what they were called to do. What do we do with that?
Where has God gone when He falls silent?
This was our struggle for the entire summer and a good portion of the fall, as we adjusted to a new home with no family or friends. Did God provide for us and bless us in many ways? Of course we can say He did. But nothing lined up the way we expected and that calling to Hawaii certainly didn’t last. From the minute we stepped foot in AZ, it was almost like God just hung up the phone and stopped talking. Tim and I looked at each other. What were we supposed to do now?
My first thought was to push through and do what God said to do. Even after Tim became discouraged and vowed to give up our dream of HI, I continued to insist that it would happen one day, that if we just hung on long enough, things would change and God would open the door. But weeks stretched into months. Months filled with far too many negative things that I don’t want to fill these pages with or that I wish to ever relive again. Suffice it to say, Tim began having panic attacks. Gracie began having panic attacks. Gabby was never able to sleep past midnight. Scarlett faced bullying (as a kindergartner!) on the bus. And then the panic attacks set in for me. Things went from worse to unbearable.
There came a point where Tim and I were both “done with God”. He had brought us to the desert and left us to die! He refused to answer even one of our cries! God had duped us into believing a dream that would never happen. What would we do now?
Well, if you haven’t guessed, it took time. Time for us to forgive God and understand that just because something doesn’t turn out the way we think it should, or in the timing we want it to happen, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t blessed by Him. We got counseling from fellow Christians, read books on God’s direction, and just spent time together as a family asking what our next step would be. Our “call” to HI had faded away and we had no direction of what we even wanted, anymore.
So we asked ourselves, if we could live anywhere, where would that be? The answer was easy–we wanted to be somewhere close to family and friends. For us, that means the east coast. And since I’ve lived in North Carolina before, both Tim and I felt sure that we would be happiest there.
The rest is history, as they say. As soon as we turned our thoughts around and realized that maybe God wanted to bless us by allowing US to choose where to go, we saw a joy we hadn’t experienced in months. In early December Tim began applying for work along the east coast and by the end of February, he’d been offered a job in Concord, NC. I can’t even begin to tell you the confirmations and blessings God has given us through the process of relocating to NC. His new job has already blessed the socks off us (!!) in ways we couldn’t even imagine–and he hasn’t even begun working yet! Once we made the decision to head east the panic attacks almost came to a stop all together. (Poor Gabby still hasn’t slept in nine months, but we pray that will change once we’ve moved!)
Before we left PA a very good friend of mine asked if maybe we weren’t meant to go to HI at all, but suggested that maybe God wanted to see if we were willing to walk in faith and just “Go” when He asked. I laughed and dismissed her comment because, who wants to think that everything they’re about to do is all in vain, right? But when her words came back to me sometime in late fall, it actually gave me a sense of comfort. Not that we had yanked our family from our roots and gone on a meaningless journey across the country. But that God had a purpose in our adventure, all along.
I’m reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac. God gave Abraham a very clear call to kill Isaac–his only son–as a sacrifice to Him. Do any of us believe for even one second that Abraham wanted to kill his son? Of course not! But fully trusting God means fully committing. It wasn’t until Abraham picked up that knife that God stopped him and gave him a lamb to slay.
Our journey has not been easy. There have been days here that I’ve never felt further from God in my entire life. But there have also been days where I’ve never felt closer. What was God’s purpose in our trip here? I’m convinced I will die without knowing every single detail of His plan. And that’s okay. It really is. Tim and I have had hours of discussion of all the things we’ve learned; all the ways we’ve come to rely more on God than ever before; all the ways we have seen God provide. Our faith is different than before we left. Our relationship with God is different. And this is a good thing. It’s no longer cookie-cutter, no longer what we’ve been “taught” to believe, no longer just believing because it’s what Christians do. We believe because we’ve walked, experienced, lived alongside God while we were in the desert.
So there you have it. That’s our journey. This is how we’re ending up in NC and not HI. Do we expect our move to be perfect? Nope. Do we expect eternal happiness once we get to Concord? No way. We know it will be stressful. We know we will face the same difficulties we faced less than a year ago. Again. Ugh. But, our faith is changed.
We know that God is there even in the silence. God will provide. God does have a purpose.
And there’s no place else I’d rather be than with my God.
Photo credit Unsplash by Levi Jones