Five years ago, my husband and I stepped off the Seattle ferry onto a beautiful marina on Puget Sound in Washington and in that moment, our whole life changed.
But that just the middle of the story. The big reveals, game changers, and life changing ‘ta da’ moments are perhaps the most fun or interesting for outsiders to read and experience with us, but most of us know there is a whole lot of work, praying, waiting, ups and downs, and confusion that take place before and after those “life altering” moments. They aren’t the whole story.
Six years ago, God started nudging me to step out of my little bubble of safety of home in my longtime hometown of Portland, Oregon, and begin something new. My son was in all-day kindergarten and my girls were in grade school, my schedule was more free, and I was certain God was calling me to a big and possibly scary adventure. My husband was puzzled with my unusually adventurous spirit and suggested maybe God was just calling me to clean the closet or maybe to have lunch with friends, ha ha.
I spent an entire year in confusion and uncertainty, praying and wondering what was coming or where I was supposed to be going. God’s answer to my question of what I should do? He seemed pretty quiet. Probably He was busy and I’m impatient.
For many years leading up to that time, my husband felt increasingly challenged to start or pastor a church. He had been in ministry as a pastor or worship leader for most of his adult life, but was ready to dive back in to full-time pastoring after several years working at a nonprofit. We searched high and low for what he should do with his mix of passion and gifting, but a new direction wasn’t falling into place.
I continued to pray about how God might use me. I knew increasingly that I wanted to encourage women, and God perhaps wanted to use me in that way, but I felt ill-equipped and lacking in any sense of direction outside of serving my family. But I was faced with the same sound — of silence. No flashing directional arrows, no answers.
Don’t you love those long quiet periods of waiting when no flashing signs fall out of the sky to direct us?
Finally, after a long year of praying and waiting, the clouds finally parted and I could see more clearly. My confusion faded as I realized my passion, purpose and direction for encouraging women had been right in front of me all along! So I took a course to start a ‘use what you have’ style decorating business because that was where my passion had been as long as I could remember. I found it fascinating and even amusing that God would finally encourage me with the obvious answer: ‘use what you have,’ when I had been feeling so inadequately equipped for so long!
Sometimes I think we forget that God already gave us our unique gifts so we look high and low for the bigger passion and purpose out there in the flashing lights somewhere, only to discover what we already have is what God needs.
Not long after I started my decorating business, I started a blog and I was loving every minute of using my God-given passion writing and encouraging women in their homes. But soon my husband’s job at the non-profit came to an end. No new job or ministry came along to fill the void, no matter how hard we searched. God’s response to our quest for more direction? He was quiet. And some of the time He said, “Wait.” Bills kept coming and we had a giant house to sell and a daughter getting married. It was stressful!
Little did my husband and I know at the time, but our passions, unique blend of gifts and interests (decorating, writing, music, teaching and other various gifts) would soon be intertwined in a brand-new adventure story only God could write — because God is awesome to have made imperfect people like us with gifts He can use.
Five and a half years ago, the rest of our waiting period seemed to be coming to a close in a whirlwind of activity. We were sent across the country for intense church planting boot camps, personality assessments, deep psychological testing, questioning and interviews to prove we were just crazy enough to do something as absurd as to start a new church in a new-to-us area with no staff to help and no people to attend.
We passed the test!
Apparently it takes a special kind of crazy to do what we do, or at least a certain amount of patience to deal with the craziness one encounters while leading a church plant.
Now that we had a more clear direction in front of us, we just had to step off the dock and leap into the uncharted waters.
So after a drive up the coast from Portland to Seattle and a short voyage on a ferry on Puget Sound, we landed at that beautiful harbor. While we had never been to that particular marina before or even stepped foot in that city, it all felt somehow strangely familiar. Maybe it was my love of boats or the intoxicating scent of the sea I love so much that distracted me from the risk we were about to take, but I think God knew I needed the comfort of those familiar things to take the risk and leap into the dangerous waters of church planting.
We walked out around the marina, up the city streets, looking at buildings and theatres and churches. We talked to locals and while one person actually seemed happy to hear about a new church, many who looked at us like we were crazy (although to be fair that could be because we were from Portland. Have you seen the Portlandia show? We live it.). But we knew THIS was the place. The real adventure had just begun.
We sold our house (which was a dramatic chapter in itself), moved our family to Washington and named the church Voyage (fitting on so many levels). We opened our doors four years ago this month. But while our opening day of the church could be called a success since people showed up, it was not the end of the story. People came for the free BBQ but the real challenge was in rallying enough people to go to church week after week.
Fast forward four years and we are at an exciting point in our story right now where the momentum is building, but there were many exhausting days behind, ahead and in between that aren’t as fun to write about.
Will this story of church planting conclude in an exciting movie style ending? That’s up to God, but His endings are always better in the book version anyway.
Our stories aren’t over when times are hard or things go wrong. Or when God seems quiet. Or when people hurt or desert us. Or when we get the best possible news and we feel like we have have finally arrived at where God wanted us to be, only to find out the story wasn’t over yet and we are back in the wilderness again. He is still writing that story, even when it seems hard. God deserves all the glory for His story, no matter what twists and turns it takes because His purposes (even in the quiet or hard times) are so much bigger and more significant than we imagine.
There are many exciting “endings” out there that make us all wide-eyed and in awe of what God can do for “some people.” They can be inspiring stories — who doesn’t want to be a part of that tale? But they can also be perplexing when your story reads nothing like that! I’ve seen people who wonder where God went when their lives take a turn in an unexpected direction and God seems unusually quiet or distant. It’s easy to forget who the author of the story is when we let God have control of our life and it isn’t going the direction we hoped.
No matter how our story develops or what the next chapter looks like, I’ve learned so much through the crazy experience of the ups and downs of church planting in the NW. While we may want to rush to a flashy movie-ending conclusion of God’s great provision in our amazing success story, we can miss out on the beautiful chapters where God is in the trenches with us, wiping the tears, carrying us across rising waters and providing our daily bread.
Our story at Voyage and in our family is a life adventure that is still being written!
Tell me your story!Leave a Comment