A great friend of mine texted me recently, “You amaze me with your faith.” She knows me better than just about anybody, so I’m sure she wasn’t dazzled for long. I cringe when someone says something like that to me because, if I may be permitted to borrow a line from Rock of Ages’ Stacee Jaxx, “I live in here.”
I like to pretend I have it all together, but I’m overly prone to stress, an easy scare, not a risk taker, a good candidate for a sundry of meds…you get the idea.
I’ve been describing my most recent circumstances as a journey of faith and fear. There could not be a better description of life as I now know it. Here’s what’s happening. A number of years ago, my husband started ruminating on a desire to plant a church. That is, he wants to start a church from scratch—no congregation, no building, no salary, no insurance, no IRA, no security. You see where this is going, right?
Admittedly, I didn’t take him all that seriously at first. At about the time that he expressed an interest in church planting, both of our fathers had life threatening health crises within about six weeks of each other. To our great relief, they both recovered, but this segued into a conversation about how–possibly, perhaps, maybe, someday, at some ill-defined point in the future–we should consider moving to a location between our parents. A location such as–let’s say–Arkansas, or more specifically, Little Rock. That’s roughly halfway between Fort Worth , Texas, and Creal Springs, Illinois. No need to google Creal Springs, folks, I will enlighten you. It’s in Southern Illinois near Marion and Carbondale (Any grads of SIU out there? Go Salukis!)—about the same distance north and east of Little Rock as Fort Worth is south and west.
This was all sort of theoretical back then. We were established in Southeast Texas and obviously God had work for us to do. Hurricane Ike had blown through, creating all kinds of mayhem, and we wanted to stay and see our church through a rough patch. Moving to plant a church was like this disturbing dream where I keep reaching for a doorknob but it is always just a fingernail’s length out of reach. I can’t decide if I want the door opened, but something compels me to keep reaching. Even asleep, I’m vaguely aware that what is on the other side of the door is at least unsettling, if not a nightmare. Still, we only discussed a possible move someday.
When my father became terminally ill last year, we had to give this move a lot more consideration. Todd is an only child living twelve hours away from home. My recently widowed mother is finding her way without my dad after 47 years of marriage. Being equally accessible to them as they age makes sense. My husband began networking a little, so moving to Arkansas suddenly wasn’t just a whim residing somewhere over the rainbow. Then, in the last six months, things picked up quite a bit. We made a trip to Little Rock over spring break to check out the opportunities. Dave, a church planter and friend, drove us around the city and discussed all the locations and possibilities. Nothing captured my attention until he said something about starting a “multi-ethnic” church.
Sometimes, it just takes a word and the dots connect. All he had to do was throw it out there like one of so many other options. It sounded distinctly in my ear while everything else downgraded instantly to background noise. Multi-ethic. Cross-cultural. Many-colored. Did I mention that our children are bi-racial? A blend, just like my family. How beautiful! No longer is this solely my husband’s vision and only sort of my ministry but just by association. I’m not just along for the ride anymore. It’s my call, too. Not the decision type of call—the higher type of call.
The opportunity to plant a church in Arkansas is there, and really all that’s left to do is take that proverbial leap of faith, make the move, and get to work. EEE. GAD.
Now, an easy way to approach this is to wait for a “parent” church to get onboard and provide a stipend or a salary of some sort. We could do that. All this time that we theoretically talked about planting a church, I naively believed that there would be some kind of funding from the get go. However, there is no guarantee that any church will ever assist us. Plus, regardless of the timing, Todd will have to be a bi-vocational minister in order to be a part of this project. I simply had never realized this before we had a real opportunity on the table. Oddly, I’m the one who proposed that we move this summer, whether we have jobs or not, so that our children can start in their new school this fall. Doesn’t sound much like me. I am, after all, the person for whom stress balls were invented.
The reason I can confidently say no one should be amazed at my faith is that I’ve lived with me for the last four months. Why did I ever think that I could handle stress like this? Keeping the secret alone had me climbing the very walls! And looking for a job? I was categorically unprepared for the anxiety of looking for a job when I’ve been wanting to transition into writing for so long anyway! What if I end up being the bread-winner and I’m locked into working full-time for years to come? Then there is the question of getting this house sold. Money is so tight. Moving is so expensive. Holy cow. Too many variables. Too many things that I have to trust God with ALL AT ONE TIME.
Still, it’s done. Todd announced his resignation even though neither of us had jobs. We had been unable to secure even a bridge in Arkansas to live under, and all the while our house in Orange has been on the market since May without so much as a nibble. For several months, we have both been looking furiously for employment. I had several promising opportunities, including two interviews, for full-time positions with benefits. Nothing came of any of it. Finally, a week after Todd resigned, God opened a door for me to teach part-time at a Christian school, the same school where my children will attend (no, we aren’t paying for the tuition—that’s gift from my sweet momma!). Although this won’t do near enough to meet our financial needs, Todd insisted that I take this job. He knows that part-time employment is best for his hyper-stressed wife. What’s good for the goose, ya know…plus, I can work and still make time to write.
Once I committed to a job with a start date on August 1st, we had to find housing even if we don’t have the money to pay for it. We found a house to rent, for which I’m very grateful. The landlords are friends of some dear friends, are taking our word for it that we are good for the rent, and are kind enough to allow us to keep our enormous dog, Zacchaeus, in the house. This is no small answer to prayer. Zacky was my baby when I couldn’t have babies. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving him away.
Housing and a job for Katie. Those two things we can check off the list. I thoroughly enjoyed my first day after accepting the teaching gig because I didn’t have to troll the internet for a job I don’t really want in the first place. We still lack a job for Todd and for our house in Orange to sell. I don’t know how to trust God with this except to just keep saying, “Hey, God, I trust you with this.” In fact, when I really feel low, I mentally cash in my Matthew 6:33 chips, wag my finger toward Heaven and remind Him, “You promised!”
Twelve years ago, Todd and I were in a similar predicament. He was pastor of a small church that couldn’t really afford a full-time minister. I had a miscarriage about six weeks before we moved to Tulsa for this job, so I was pretty fragile. Then the church’s lack of funds became increasingly obvious. They had to cut our insurance just a few months after he started, and we had planned on getting pregnant again. I vividly remember Todd delivering the news about how the decision had been made, how we would have to pay thus-and-such amount when the church had promised otherwise before we moved. Todd, although pretty discouraged, spoke calmly from the recliner across the room from me. On the other hand, I responded the way you would expect someone to respond when they match the description above.
Collapsing at his side on the floor, I hung my top half over the arm of the chair and wailed, “What if God brought us here just so we could sink?!”
I love this man. He said, “Okay. So, if God brought us here to sink, is that okay?” He didn’t have to elaborate. I’ve never forgotten it. I hope I never will.
The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.