Saturday, October 29, 2016

Surprised By A Gift

I was looking back at my last post.....I knew something was coming.....I felt it in the deepest parts of my heart, but I had no idea it was this. He has been so kind in all of it - the King. He had it so beautifully laid out and it was poured out over us in a sudden, catch your breath, kind of way. We had felt a movement in our hearts and had even told some near and dear mentors and friends that He wasn't done with.....well, we didn't know....but He wasn't done with it yet and it was coming.

Let me catch you up. It's been since the beginning of June that I posted last. A lot has happened. In my last blog post I honestly noted that the King was up to something big and we felt it but had not clue....not even an inkling of direction of what He was up to. We had been receiving calls from churches around the Northwest for a number of months, but always felt very clear that Jacob's Well Church was where the Lord wanted us, so it never took very long for us to turn down the inquiries and pursuits. We were getting ready to head out to sign a new contract for a lease on a house that we felt God had very clearly opened the door for us to live in - to this day we still feel like it was our gift home - a place of rest. Beautiful backyard, and amazing interior layout. A gift for hospitality and restful hangouts with Jesus. Now we know why He gifted us that for 2 months. We needed to rest.

We had been asked by a church in Colorado to do a laid back interview really quickly on Skype to just "feel out the possibilities". We didn't feel too worried about saying hello, since that's usually where we felt God had closed doors on other inquiries - right after the hello's. So we sat down to Skype with the board before heading out the door to sign the housing lease. Usual questions, and pretty typical answers followed, and that was that. Except that it wasn't. We said goodbye, and headed to sign the paperwork.

We got in the car and the Spirit of the Lord sat down right with us.....and said, "You're going to want to pay attention to what just happened." Now, hear me - He didn't say, "You're going to Colorado", but what He did say was to pay attention......He hadn't said that in any of the other church inquiries we had received. None of them. This one was different.

We had a contract to sign, and we didn't feel Him say "No" to that either, so we just kept walking forward. Pay attention, but be available in the now. Okay, we can do that.

We signed and finished packing our house, and moved in the next week. A few days into settling into our new home, the church in Colorado called back. They wanted another Skype interview, but this time they wanted it to be a "real" interview. So Chris and I did what we have so often learned to do in church planting......head to the couch and get on our knees to pray. God was very easy to hear - "Do the interview." So we did.

The interview went for almost 2 hours. They asked all about Jacob's Well and what we had been doing for the past 5 years. We asked them questions about their church and their mission outreach to their neighborhood. The entire time was full of back and forth conversation and sharing and questions and answers from honest hearts on both sides. We said goodbye, and Chris and I looked at each other. What just happened? Something in our spirits began to lean in further......what was God up to? Something big.

Interviews with a church are somewhat interesting. It's a bit like an awkward dating situation - first you meet and then one side decides if they like the other, and then if they do, then the other side has to decide if they like them back. It goes like this throughout the whole thing. The only great difference is that hopefully both sides aren't just deciding based on feelings - they are genuinely getting on their faces before the King of kings and asking what He needs next of them. So as we waited to hear from the church whether they wanted to move to the next step, we prayed. Oh, we prayed.

This time, though, our prayers were laborious. Not only were we praying through what may be with this church in Colorado, but we were praying and grieving what a call to Colorado would mean for what God had been doing in the North End of Boise through a believing community, our extended family, called Jacob's Well church. Ugly cry is a much better description of what I mean when I say grieved.

The church called us back and said that they would like to take the next step which would be a face to face interview with the entire church. We had already planned a vacation to see my brother and his family in Fort Collins, Colorado - they had recently moved back from Cambodia, and I was thrilled to have them state side, so our calendar was set with seeing them. We decided to make a day in the middle of our vacation to drive the 90 minutes to Castle Rock, and interview face to face, instead of finding another time to fly back and interview later.

We prayed as we drove the 90 minutes to Castle Rock.....a nervous, what if we don't like it - what if we do like it kind of prayer......and Oh, God please be clear with us. As we came up over the swell of the mountains, we dropped down into a valley that looked like it had been sweetly kissed by the Creator. Rolling hills covered with neighborhoods, and green-blue mountains sidled up to the edges.....evergreens and scrub oak dotted the curves.....and all we could say was, "Wow!"

We drove ourselves around and just looked. We asked God to speak and open our hearts to begin to love this place like home if He was asking that of us.....and He quickly began to increase our vision for Castle Rock and it's people. As we arrived at the church to interview, names and faces were already precious to me, and even in the midst of interview questions and nervous feelings, the King was up to something beautiful.

We left and prayed for Kingdom hearts for them, for us, and for listening ears all around. Then we waited. The awkward dating situation was now more of the "post-meeting the parents" butterflies in the stomach thing.

We decided that our Jacob's Well family was needing in on the conversation, so with tears and a request for them to join us in prayer, we told our extended family. That was a hard night, because we knew what it meant if God said "go", and so did they. The church in Colorado had voted that afternoon and had invited our family to come. It was our turn to respond. Family like Jacob's Well is hard to match - and because they are family, they did what family does - they prayed with us. 24 hours later, every one of them said, "God says Go!". We had made it a "family" decision, and our "family" said go, so we called the church and said, we will come. Now the rest of it gets crazy, because we had to get our kiddos to Colorado as quick as we could since school was already 3 weeks into session, even though Boise hadn't even started yet. So, we asked the Jacob's Well family for help, and they jumped and helped pack us and move us in a week. A WEEK! God also provided a renter to fill our lease in Boise a month after we moved - amazing!

There's a lot of story in there that you may hear from me someday that gets down to intimate parts where the King provided and helped and maintained and encouraged, but that is for later. What you DO need to hear, is that upon arriving in Castle Rock, everything the King had been teaching Chris and I over the last 5 years in planting Jacob's Well, suddenly was exactly what we needed to know in ministering to this community and this church. Exactly!

The best way I can explain it to you was the way I described it to my parents today via Skype. I said, "It's like labor. Our time in Boise was a bit like the first 3 steps of labor - it's all of the awkward and painful labor cramps, the doubling over on our faces asking what we are supposed to do next - the quiet and often loud relinquishment of knowing you just have to breathe through this part, and the next, and the next - the waiting, and tears - the hoping and anxiety - the wanting it to be over, but knowing that everything happening is how you get closer to new life.......and then your body says something new - and that's what Castle Rock feels feels like the part where I get to participate in the new life - I get to push and help and say, 'Look! Look what's coming! New life is coming! I can see it!! That's what this feels like - it feels like a gift!"

We have been surprised by a gift straight from the heart of a King who knows every yucky and ugly part of us, who knows the tears and cries out to Him for direction, vision, help, and hope, and who said simply, "You're going to want to pay attention."

What happened, you ask? A gift. A gift happened.

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