Thanksgiving weekend was so wonderful for our family! It was crazy driving all over the county multiple times, but totally worth it. Plus, the kids were so worn out every day that we actually got to sleep-in a couple of mornings until 7:30!!! We are blessed to have my parents and grandparents and Ben's parents all living close-by, not to mention all of the extended family as well. Family is so important to us, and we want our kids to see the treasure that it is.
I have expressed in another blog post that my heart has been overflowing with thankfulness to God over the last couple of months. If you follow me on Facebook, you probably saw my status on Thanksgiving day, so this will be redundant, but I think it is worth saying again: I am most thankful that God's plans are far better than any plans we can come up with.
What I did not share on Facebook is the main reason for my feeling this way. If you care to know, read on.
About one year ago, Ben and I began to feel a longing for more fellowship with like-minded couples/families for the purpose of discipleship, i.e., growing in our faith in God through intentional friendships where Christ is the focus, and accountability is found. For several reasons, connections just weren't happening for us. Ben has always worked out of the town that we live in, and has developed close relationships with several of his co-workers who live in Knoxville (work town). As a result, we have become friends with their families, and they are the very type of people that we were longing to have friendships with. But it is hard to do couple/family fellowship-discipleship because we live in separate towns. The situation was more like Ben had his friends there, and I had my friends here. I am not at all discrediting the friends that we had right in front of us. They are all still our friends and people that we consider gifts from God.
But.... we decided to try to sell our house so we could move to Knoxville and start getting planted there. At the same time that we put our house on the market, a new friendship started to grow for me, and out of that, a new friendship for our whole family. It was my sweet running partner, Chris and her precious family. Also at the same time, God reignited a friendship with a couple that we had been close with before we all had our kids. A few months later, my sister and her family (who are our closest friends) announced that they were moving back home after living away at seminary for 5 years.
God was working.
We were still saying that moving was for us, but my heart was changing. My eyes were opening. I caught myself thinking, "I don't want to leave so-and-so. I don't want to change churches. I don't want to be further from our families."
"Trust in The Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
All of the time, I had this vision in the back of my mind of Ben and me in a leadership position together, but had no path for it. I was asked to join a start-up team for a new ladies' Bible study in our church. I agreed, and was soon asked if I would be willing to fill the role of substitute teacher. I resisted (in my flesh) because I had never "taught" anything before other than exercise classes, and I certainly couldn't use Zumba moves to teach the Gospel; so I had to go out of my comfort zone, but finally agreed after much prayer. (If you are wondering why Ben and I do not attend Sunday morning Bible study together, it is because he has been serving in the third grade Sunday school as a teacher for the last two years.)
In the meantime, Ben began expressing his doubts about moving to Knoxville. Needless to say, we were getting discouraged about the selling of our house because it hadn't happened yet, but at the same time, we were relieved that we hadn't sold quickly and then regretted moving away. Oh, how God looks out for us!
Most recently, for about the last two months, Ben has been going to a men's accountability group that is part of the "young marrieds" class at our church. They invited Ben because they knew he was not part of an adult class, and that he is quite awesome when it comes to small group discussion of God's Word! (OK, so maybe they didn't know that yet, but I already did, and they must know now!) It has been a great opportunity for Ben to share his struggles and his experience/knowledge gained with slightly younger guys.
We knew that the current class teachers were stepping down to fill another role in the church, but we didn't know it would affect us since we weren't in the class. But... about a month ago, Ben and I were asked to consider taking over the class. We were surprised and honored, humbled but standoffish. We first thought, "We can't leave the classes that we're in. It will put the leaders in a hard place trying to fill our positions." I can't speak for Ben but I also had thoughts like, "I don't have time to prepare a lesson every week, and I don't have enough knowledge." But after much prayer and hearing sound advice from our "Equipping Pastor," and receiving confirmation in other ways, we realized that this is what God has been preparing us for all along. We realized that we had our own vision:
moving, get planted somewhere new, maybe becoming small group leaders in our 40s or 50s (when we would be more wise and mature). But that is not where God has lead us. His path has been different from what we expected, but so much richer.
Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but The Lord establishes his steps."
Wanting deeper friendships--->
OK, let's move--->
Our house not selling--->
Each of us learning to lead separately--->
Our hearts beginning to change regarding moving--->
Being asked to lead the young marrieds, and getting our hearts filled with the kind of fellowship we have been longing for!
Oh, how He cares for us!
So... We are very excited. And nervous! We want the class to be a place where the couples can learn how to be honest with each other while showing God's grace and consideration of their spouse. And hopefully, as Ben and I are learning, they can learn how the Gospel applies daily in the marriage relationship.
I can say with confidence that all of this story is a result of "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness..." (Exodus 34:6)
By the way, we could use all the prayers we can get. Satan has already started throwing darts at us since we made our decision, but I'll have to save that for another post! ;)