A few days ago, I got a phone call to let me know an almost two year nightmare would be coming to an end. After the initial relief, I started thinking about some of the lessons the experience has taught me.
God’s plan doesn’t have to make sense to us.
We can do everything “right” in the eyes of the world, but if it’s not following God’s will then it’s totally wrong.
Public opinion doesn’t matter nearly as much as I once thought it did.
A little over three years ago, we thought the Lord’s plan was changing for our family. We had started a ministry to aid impoverished areas of Appalachia and we felt strongly He was preparing to move us there. We thought, in order to be most effective, we needed to be there. Specifically we planned to open a “free café” and operate a mission hub in one of the areas we had fallen in love with. We made connections with local churches and members of the community and even had a generous offer for financial backing. We began working towards making it all happen but still found ourselves torn because of two things: our daughter and our house.
While it made sense in our heads to push forward in one direction, other things kept popping up that gave us doubt. People we had worked with started to show characteristics that made us pause. Divisions among some of our networks caused concern (we didn’t want to walk into someone else’s hornets’ nest). Then, our daughter was trying to decide where to go to college. As a homeschooler, we had the option of her being able to finish high school from anywhere but location mattered for college. Our home of record determined what scholarships she would be eligible for as well as tuition costs. The difference of tens of thousands of dollars mattered. So, we decided to wait on our move.
Our wait irritated a lot of people and others lost confidence in us because we weren’t moving as quickly as they thought we should. They didn’t understand why we would wait and even questioned our faith (and whether or not we could still be effective in our mission). We had some very hurtful things said to us by members of our own church and even worse things said about us when we weren’t around. The only thing we knew, for certain, was to take one step at a time as God made each step clear. We couldn’t jump into long term decisions that our hearts had so much doubt about. Still, it was hard.
I started internalizing and beating myself up for having so much doubt about what to do. I questioned everything. I wondered if we had seriously missed the mark on what God wanted us to do. It didn’t make sense for it all to have been so clear in the beginning but then turn murky when opportunities to do more came open. The next issue was our house. We had only lived in our home for a couple of years. We paid nearly asking price (because we loved it so much) but also bought knowing it needed a lot…a LOT of updating and repairs. At the time we bought, it wasn’t a problem, we fully expected to grow old in it. We thought we had, decades to work on renovations and repairs. A quick decision to sell would have meant putting an abundance of money into it (that we didn’t have) – it just wasn’t a sound financial option. About the same time, our mortgage company notified us they had sold to another financial institution. We didn’t know it but that letter was the beginning of one of the most stressful, emotional and draining ordeals of our lives. It would put a strain on our relationships, our marriage, our family, our personal wellbeing and…on our faith.
In the following months, we discovered with absolute certainty the people we thought we would be working with did not have the best interest of our ministry in mind, nor of the work we were being called to do. We lost our financial backing commitment for the café because we were having to wait to move. Then we lost peace moving at all. Even though what we were doing wasn’t wrong, we see now how the Lord was putting the brakes on us making a huge mistake. We misread His guidance and thought He was going to use us in ways He never intended. It was embarrassing. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I had been so far off. I not only didn’t know how the Lord would use us, I didn’t know if He was going to use us at all.
Among all of it, the problems with the mortgage company began to build. Through a series of loan transfer problems (that I still don’t fully understand), paperwork between us, the VA, the old mortgage company and the new mortgage company didn’t make it to the hands it needed to. We found ourselves filling out packets of identical paperwork on a MONTHLY basis because, even though their “system” showed it had been received, it was nowhere to be found. My husband’s VA rep had to get involved, there was still no resolution. The details are a very long and complicated story but simply put, the repairs the house needed became a minor issue; the bigger problem was that we could not put the house on the market until the problems with the mortgage company were resolved. During all of it, we made peace about not moving to Appalachia. The fleece for that had been laid out and came back soaking wet, along with the ground around it (check out the story of Gideon in Judges 6). The move wasn’t going to happen. We did however, realize where we WOULD be moving to…we were going home to Arkansas.
As doors to Appalachia closed, doors to Arkansas flung open. Our daughter decided to attend the University of Arkansas on scholarship, my husband had reconnected with his dad (after being a part for 40 years – a totally separate story coming from that) and it was time to be home. Unfortunately, there was still the issue of the house. The story and the legal jargon to explain it all is far too complicated for me to repeat here but in the end, we had to cut our losses. We were being threatened by the mortgage company, the mortgage company was being threatened by the VA loan program and a state mortgage program was called in because of it all. In the end, we moved anyway, got a really great attorney and the house was recently sold at auction. That’s what the phone call as about. We didn’t make anything but, we also don’t have to pay anything and, most of all, we don’t have to EVER deal with that particular mortgage company again.
The thing is, we didn’t do anything “wrong” except let our focus shift from God’s will for our lives to other people’s opinion of our lives. If we hadn’t drug our feet, we would have moved and been in a worse mess paying a mortgage on a home we didn’t live in, plus a mortgage for a second home. Not to mention, living and working among people who could no longer get along. The worst part would have been not being within His will.
Looking back, I can see He was trying to show us we needed to be preparing for a move but NOT to Appalachia; we should have been focused on moving back to Arkansas the whole time. Even on the surface, when we were doing what we thought was right, we were still wrong. We know that now, of course, but hindsight is always clearer.
So what have I learned? Well, I learned a lot but these points stand out:
- When His plan isn’t making sense, it doesn’t mean we should dismiss it. We might not be ready for the whole plan to be revealed. Sometimes, it’s okay the answer to “Why, Lord?” is “Because I said so.”
- I got a lot of things wrong on that leg of my journey with God but, in the end, I got a lot of things right and I know we’re back on track for where we should be.
- Probably the hardest lesson, was that the difficult people in our lives, usually don’t pay our bills. They’re also not privy to our personal struggles or know the whole story. It’s important to remember, we’re not accountable to people. We’re accountable to Christ, even if those “people” are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Remembering who we’re accountable to means worrying a lot less about what others think too.