In July of 2015, Brooke and I went on a "vacation" to Nashville, TN. It was in reality more of a trip to look at houses than an actual vacation. But first, let me back track a few months...
"I think God is calling us to move" is something that I never thought I would say. I love the house we live in. I love the town we live in. I get to walk to work at the walk in love. studio everyday. Brooke's parents live a mile down the road and my parent's live eight miles away. One of Brooke's best friends lives across the street and they have a little girl only a few months younger than June. We honestly couldn't ask for a better living situation. (Unless maybe someone was handing out free hot tubs, then we'd totally add one of those to our deck to make everything better.)
So, when I approached Brooke with that statement above, I was a little shocked that I was even saying it. I had been feeling like I needed to bring it up with her for a few months. I kept getting this word from God in my quiet and prayer time - "move."
Like most things we think are coming from God, we tend to ignore them at first because "we're probably making it up...." And that is exactly what I did. I thought I was just putting the thought it my own head, so I ignored it at first. Then when I realized it wasn't going anywhere, I thought maybe the call was to "move on" from some of the other things we were doing at that time, which both Brooke and I had been feeling anyway. That's when we decided to say goodbye to our wedding photography business and focus solely on walk in love.
Once we made that decision, I really thought this word "move" would go away. A few days later while I was spending time with God - boom - "MOVE!" I couldn't shake it! And after a few months of wrestling with the idea on my own, I finally decided to approach Brooke and tell her, "I think God is calling us to move."
Brooke is everything I say she is in my posts. I am not just a husband lifting up my wife on an unrealistic pedestal. She really is the most patient, understanding woman in the history of time.
She simply replied, "Where?"
She didn't freak out or start panicking about "how will we pack up the cats" or "move thousands of t-shirts", which is what was going through my mind!
I told her that I had no idea where. I just felt like God was calling us to move. That's honestly as far as the conversation had gone between the Big Guy and I.
Over the next few days we would blurt out random locations at random times.
"Hawaii!" I would say, and Brooke would be like, "Nope, I don't think that's the place."
"Texas" she would say. And I'd reply, "I do like Texas, but that doesn't feel right."
We named every location, all over the country and kept coming back with, "That doesn't seem like it..."
Then one day, just before I headed up the stairs to grab something, I turned and said, "What about Nashville?"
"Yes. That's it." she replied.
At that point I had never been to Nashville in my life. Brooke had visited once while she was in college with some friends, but didn't have very many memories of it. (Like most things Brooke does. Ha ha!)
We have friends who live in Nashville, so we started e-mailing them and asking questions about the area. Everyone who lives in Nashville, loves Nashville, so it wasn't hard to get excited about the idea.
Over the next week we had mustered up the courage to tell our parents we were thinking about it, purchased plane tickets to visit and set up friends to stay with. Thank you Scott and Suzy! (#sherlockholmes #ascap)
We spent a few days in early July driving around every neighborhood in Nashville trying to get an idea of what areas we liked and didn't like. Nashvill-ites are really into the names of their neighborhoods, so for those of you who want to know, we drove around 12 South, East Nashville, EdgeHill, The Nations, West End, Sylvan Park, Germantown and even took a trip down to Franklin, TN. I just say I live in Manheim, so the intense neighborhood naming thing was a new experience for me.
We'd spent a week driving around neighborhoods, looking at homes and schools and were both on the same page. At the end of our visit Brooke and I both looked at each other and said with confidence, "I think we are moving to Nashville."
It was honestly something I never thought I would say, but it was July, and since our little Junie was born in February, I felt God pushing me to lean into His plan for me more and more as those months went on. Brooke and I, with a lot of confidence, started to lean into this calling we were now both seeing in an intense way, and left Nashville feeling like we would be back for good in the next year or so.
A few days after we returned home from our trip, I left on a mission trip to Boston, Massachusetts, with the small group I lead from church. The trip wasn't great. I had a fun time with my small group of guys, but as a whole I felt like the trip was kind of pointless. Each place we went to serve had little or nothing for us to do and we felt more like an annoyance then an actual help. So naturally, I spent a lot of time that week really thinking about all that we had to do to actually move and these were just a few of the questions racing through my head...
- How do you move a business? I am guessing it's not easy.
- How will our parents actually take the move? I mean, I am my mom's favorite after all.
- Will we be able to sell our house, and buy a new one?
- Will we be able to find a place for walk in love?
- Will we make any new friends?
- How much money will it cost?
- What if we can never find a babysitter?
- How we will tell Kim and Jon?
- How will I tell my small group of guys?
- What if our car blows up on the way down there?
- What if an EMP hits while we are on our way and we are stuck in the middle of a highway and have to fight off bands of raiders?
- What if I am wrong about the feeling and this is a giant mistake?
I could go on and on, and on, with all the fears I had about the decision. I decided though that I was going to lean into what God had for me and trust that He is guiding my heart at all times.
Something that I have never experienced before in my life started to happen while I was in Boston. I felt the exact opposite call than the one I had been so clearly decided upon just a few days earlier. Over that week in Boston, I strongly started to hear the word, "stay."
I honestly started to think I was losing my mind.
Instead of ignoring the feeling like I did the first time when He was saying, "move" I leaned into it. I spent that week in Boston praying and crying out to God for direction and for His will to be done in my life.
By the end of the week I had this overwhelming peace about staying in our little town of Manheim, Pennsylvania. On the drive home I started to think about how I was going to tell Brooke. Would she feel the same way? Would she think I had lost my mind? After all, she'd spent her week at home with June, meeting with a realtor and working on projects to sell our house!
A few hours after I was home from Boston, I mustered up the courage and said to my wife, who was so on board to move, and so willing to trust what God was telling her husband, "I think we should stay in Manheim."
And she said something I never expected her to say, "I do too."
- - -
To a far less degree of intensity, Brooke and I felt like Abraham must have, being called by God to sacrifice His son Isaac. Obviously moving and sacrificing your son aren't even on the same planet in terms of steps of faith, but we didn't really want to move when it came down to it. We honestly thought we would always live in this area. I mean, I had spent months ignoring the idea and thinking it was just about other things.
But like Abraham on the mountain, Brooke and I had taken the steps to go through with the difficult calling on our lives. And like God did with Abraham, because He is a good Father, He had other plans for us.
Instead of last summer being like every other summer, what we had instead was a summer where our faith was tested more than it had ever been before. After a the initial fear, we leaned into the perfect love that casts out all fear and pursued the move God was calling us to take. We took steps to make it happen only to have what we thought was the direction we were headed be completely reversed.
Faith is really odd sometimes. And after going back on the idea of moving, I started to really wonder, "Why?"
What was the point of all that?
I believe God wants to push us out out of our comfort zone at times, so He can be our comforter. And while I was freaked out about all the logistics of moving, I also felt comforted by a good God who loves me and would comfort me even with all the stress that moving would bring.
I never want to live so complacently that I ignore what God is calling me to do. Even after almost moving to Nashville, I want to be ready to say "Yes!" even if later in life my path might totally do a one-eighty. That doesn't make God bi-polar or mean or rude. It just means that Nashville wasn't His plan all along and He wanted to mold my heart in a way to trust Him like I never had before, which is exactly what happened.
Because after Brooke and I came to separate realizations that we were staying, it opened up our heart to something that was hiding away - our heart for our small town of Manheim.
We want to be a part of something great in Manheim. We want to spend all our time here to revitalize the area. We want to bring jobs to this area by growing our company. We want to open up new businesses in this area. And guess what? That will be way more difficult and challenging than up and moving to Nashville ever would have been.
God is constantly calling His followers towards the outrageous and unrealistic, because it's only during callings like that that can we fully rely on Him and His goodness. My call wasn't to move 750 miles, it's to stay and be a part of moving my small town forward. To bring restoration and revitalization. And when we do that, and people ask why we have such a heart toward Manheim, we will be able to tell them that it isn't us, but God working through us.
When you follow Jesus you will be asked to do hard things. Take it from someone who ignored one of those hard things for too long. I'd encourage you to simply lean into it, because when you do your heart will be opened up to new depths and maybe, just maybe, somewhere in those depths is where your true purpose will shine brighter than ever before.
So here I am. Staying in little Manheim, Pennsylvania. Because, I didn't move, but I am ready to see my God do just that in my town.