Time to Stay

I was a part of one church for twenty eight years. Yes, you heard me right…twenty. eight. years.

To me that was my normal, I couldn’t have imagined growing up any different. My parents joined our home church soon after they found God in the 70’s, and immediately fell in love with the grace message and their radical mission to bring the gospel to the world.

Both of my parents attended the church’s Bible college and started their family (a.k.a., me) in 85′ after marrying. A handful of years later the church went through a split and since my parents still felt called to be a part of the church, they, along with about 900 other people (yup, pretty wild), moved from Massachusetts to Maryland to re-plant the church in a different state.

As a little kid I remember spending my Saturday’s, Sunday’s, and Wednesday’s in a church building that used to be a grocery store, lying on the newly carpeted floor with my crayons drawing away as my parents listened to the message and talked to other church members each week. My whole world revolved around this place I called my church home.

For 28 years I had never looked for another church. I felt at home in this place, and there was a comfort in being a part of the same community for such a long time. I had a radical encounter with Jesus when I was 14 at summer camp, travelled overseas to Thailand, Europe, Japan and so many other places with my youth group throughout High School, and after I graduated I attended the same Bible college my parents had 18 years prior.

I found my gift of singing, songwriting, and leading worship at this church. I served as a missionary in Africa after graduating Bible college. In all definitions of the word I knew what it meant to plant yourself and be fully committed to serving in a church.

And then God started to move in my heart in an unexpected way.

It was 2012 and I had come back from living in Africa after going through a pretty rough break up. I attempted to go back on the mission field twice and God decidedly shut the door both times. I started to sense that God was wanting something very different for me in this next phase of life. So, for two years there was a growing sense that my future was no longer going to be here, in this place that I had known for so long.

It was a season full of tension. God was asking me to be fully present, invested, and faithful in a place that he was also preparing me to leave. It was a strange reality to be invited into.

This sense would come over me time and time again for two years until everything changed in the summer of 2014. God opened a series of unexpected doors that led me to move my life across the country to California to work with A21, a global non profit organization.

I’ll never forget the feeling when I found out I was accepted for this internship. I was driving in my car on a road I had driven down a million times. I was desperate for this newness, this adventure that would match the sense that had been building in my heart for over two years. When I got the acceptance email in my car I instantly started crying and my heart was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and expectation.

I knew that this open door to move to California would be a forever closed door on the life I had always known, including the 28 years spent in the church home I had been a part of. It was overwhelming to think about but my heart was so beautifully prepared for it all.

Now, here I am five years later, two more states and moves later. When it came to being involved at church over those five years, I was a part of the community, even the worship teams, but I had a reservation in my heart because I knew deep down I would be moving on soon.

In Jan of 2019 I moved to Nashville, TN, which I hope to be my last move for awhile. Now that I sense I’ll be staying put for awhile I’ve realized I need to make some mental shifts. I lived as a nomad for almost six years that I’ve almost forgotten what it looks and feels like to really settle in and plant myself somewhere.

I feel for the Israelites. For 4O YEARS they put down their tent only to pull it up again if the cloud decided it was going to move that day. Talk about nomadic! I wonder if once they got to the promise land they had a season where they realized they needed to make similar mental shifts. They needed to remind themselves that there wasn’t a cloud to reference anymore telling them whether needed to pack up and move on or not. They were actually there to stay.

I feel that. I’ve realized I need to make some mind and heart shifts and remember what it feels like to commit fully…in relationships, in church, in my city, really in all areas of my life. I don’t know if there is a part of you that’s been in survival mode, or a part of your heart that’s been on reserve. Maybe your mind and heart haven’t been able to fully rest anywhere for fear that you’ll be hurt again or things will end the way all the other things have.

This is a new season we’re being ushered into. A season where we can rest and reap the harvest of all the planting and sowing we’ve been doing. A season where we’ll see unexpected beauty in places we’ve only seen heartache. A season where we’ll experience refreshment where we’ve only felt discouragement and heaviness.

We can let the old seasons go. They might have been beautiful or painful but either way God is always in the business of ushering us into something new. Let’s FULLY embrace this new season and all the beauty that’s waiting for us as we draw near to it with our whole hearts–fully abandoned to all God wants to do.