I titled this post “The Long Story,” because a lot of people have been asking us lately what is going on concerning our future plans, and it really is a long story. I could make it short, I suppose, and maybe I should, just in case you don’t want to read all of this post to find out the ending…..basically, we’re still planning on getting out of the Coast Guard and moving to Kauai in Feb, 2015. Now…..for the long (Gods-in-the-details) version.
I feel like I should tell the story backwards, mostly because that’s the way it plays out in my head and it’s easier to remember the things that happened most recently. Two days ago, we received a phone call from Ryan Smith, pastor of Lihue Missionary Church, formally offering Austin the position of Youth Pastor at the church. We gladly accepted and will be moving, as planned, to Kauai this February. So many things have had to happen for this whole thing to be possible, and we find ourselves daily in awe and wonder over how great our God is and how He has been so present and purposeful in every step leading up to this point.
One of the biggest things that needed to be secured before we leave the military was the selling of our house, and, praise be to God, we have an offer and are proceeding with the sale. We don’t know exactly when the closing date on the house will be, but it is looking like it will be just a couple months before we move which works out perfectly. We have been slowly and steadily liquidating all of our belongings, with the exception of necessary items that we use on a day-to-day basis. It’s a little bit comical seeing our once nicely curated walls void of any pictures or decorations and a three seater sofa starts feeling pretty small when it’s the only seating in the house for 5 people, but the physical act of seeing all of our belongings leave the front door has been such a great encouragement along the way. We still have more things that we will need to offload before we leave, but God has been so good to us and has brought buyers for items that we thought would be hard to sell. He has really gone above and beyond in making it clear to us that this path He has us following is the right one and we are so thankful for that.
The changing of the seasons always seems to bring a sense of urgency to me, and this summer to fall transition is no exception. As the leaves slowly change colors and the evening temperatures beckon sweaters and socks, I can’t help but reflect on all the amazing ways that God has directed our paths to lead us to this point. When Austin joined the Coast Guard, we never planned for it to be a longterm career, but the ease and stability the military has offered our family was not an easy thing to think about giving up. In retrospect, I can’t help but smile at the idea that I ever thought we would be “giving up” something by getting out of the military. The things that we have gained through this whole process have easily overshadowed anything we have sacrificed. The feeling of satisfaction and joy that has come with knowing that we are right where God wants us to be and the excitement and expectation of knowing that He is going to use us to share the gospel and the love of Christ as He works through us to changes lives for his kingdom is such a sweet gift He has placed in our hearts. It is this truth that we hold on to when the reality of all this change starts stirring fear or worry in our hearts.
For us, one of the neatest things about this story has been the way we can look back over the last 10 years and see how God was playing a role, even back then, in what is happening today. When we moved to Oahu ten years ago, we had no way of knowing that the people we met and places we visited would be the very seeds that would eventually draw us back to the South Pacific. While living there, we attended New Hope Christian Fellowship, a large “mega-church” that meets in Honolulu (amongst other locations). In a church body of over 10,000 members, it is easy to feel lost in the mass number of attendees. By what can only be described in retrospect as the hand of God, we decided to join a small group and from a list of a couple hundred groups, chose the one led by Ryan and Hayley Smith. Over the course of the 4 years that we lived on Oahu, the Smith family became precious friends to us. We spent many days and nights enjoying laughter and fellowship with this special family, never knowing how God was planning on using our friendship later on down the road.
When we left Oahu in 2009, we said a teary farewell to so many dear friends and headed to North Carolina with no idea that our return to the islands would be a short 6 years away. Over the last 6 years that we have been stationed in Elizabeth City, we have gone from being “gung-ho” Coast Guard, to wrestling with the idea of getting out, to absolutely certain that this is the direction that God is leading our family. Seeing the way He has changed our hearts and, in turn, the desires of our hearts can only be described as super-natural. Sometimes there is a temptation to focus on all that we are sacrificing to do this, but I know that it’s really quite the opposite, and I want to give God all the glory for what He is doing in our lives.
We are so excited as we begin to get glimpses of what our future holds. Being able to work with students and the opportunity to serve alongside Christ-filled people like Ryan and Hayley and the rest of the leadership of LMC gives us so much joy and anticipation about what God is going to do in us and through us. We were greeted with such warmth and enthusiasm when we visited Kauai and LMC back in June, and we can’t wait to be back on the ground in Hawai’i to see what God has in store for us out there!
I end this post with an encouragement….many people have approached us and shared how they wish that they could do something like this, or they have shared big dreams that God has put in their hearts. I have told those people, as I tell you now, that the God who we serve is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. He isn’t doing anything in our lives and our hearts that he won’t do in anyone else’s who wholly offers their lives to His purpose. If God has put big dreams in your heart or if He has been urging you to make drastic changes in your life, don’t be afraid to give Him the wheel and let him start steering the boat. Is it scary? Yes. Are there uncertainties? Absolutely. Is it worth it? For sure.
If you have been praying for our family, we want to thank you. We have felt the favor of God with such clarity and resolution over the last year and it is due in large part to dear friends and family members lifting us up in prayer before God. For those of you who have asked for specific ways to pray for us, please pray that God would be preparing a home for us and for wisdom as we try to decide what household goods we want to ship and whether or not we should ship our car.