A month in the life of…

Many friends and family who follow my blog or who communicate with me in forms other than the blogosphere have had a hard time keeping up with what’s going on in my family’s life.  Therefore, the following is a bit of an update.  This is the actual true to life sequence of events over the past few weeks.  Please pray for God’s continued guidance…

Well, it all began a couple months back.  Kristy and I were asked to join PLI (Pastoral Leadership Institue) for their first shot at a totally revamped program.  I will spare you the details other than the fact that it is not cheap to be involved with PLI.  I estimate that over 2 years we will spend about 13K-14K for registration, travel and the like.  Kristy and I, not being in the financial position to take those kind of numbers on at the moment, submitted an application for a grant.  We also sent out support letters to some friends, family and former church relations (and professors).  While the grant we applied for was capped at $1000 we asked for more, stating the reason for our need.  Well, God answered our prayers.  In an uncustomary move, the granting entity agreed to cover our total registration cost for the first year ($3500).  Then the letters started to come back.  We sent out about 140 request letters plus an additional 650 or so in our local congregation’s monthly newsletter.  8 came back (so far).  Half of them provided financial support in addition to prayer support.  The financial portion totaled $1900. This more than covered our travel and other expenses for our first PLI gathering last month (in Omaha).

This begins the strange turn of events…

While we were in Omaha we were asked the question, “What is keeping you from following where God is leading you?”  My initial answer was, “Nothing.”  I felt sincerely sure that I have been following God to the best of my ability as of late.  I have been praying for guidance and discernment.  I have been looking for opportunity and open doors.  I have been trying to be bold and follow where I sense His leading.  But then I began to feel overwhelmed.  

Suddenly, I was not so sure of myself.  I started thinking on my families finances and the fact that I didn’t know how we were going to pay next month’s bills.  I started thinking about my crushing student loan debt.  For the first time (perhaps ever) I was worried about my ability to manage my families finances.  (BTW – I recently became a licensed financial planner.)  

Now, if you know me you would know that this anxiety over money is not a normal thing.  As I say from time to time, “I have always liked money.”  The truth of the matter is I am good with money.  Kristy and I have top tier credit scores.  I have been known to be a little OCD about budgeting in the past.  I enjoy the money game.  But all of the sudden, it wasn’t a game.  It was something I just wanted to run away from.  I remember thinking, “If we could sell our house then we could pay off Kristy’s student loans, pay off the mini-van, pay off…well, pay down my student loans. Sure, we would be homeless.  With no significant source of income.  But if we were homeless I wouldn’t need a significant source of income.  We could move in with my mom for the time being and then…” 

This was literally what I thought. And all of the sudden I wasn’t worried anymore.  I thought about it a little bit more.  “Well, there are smarter ways to deal with my student loan debt…but the rest of that doesn’t sound so bad.”  I talked it over with Kristy and she agreed.  We were going to sell our house…I think. 

Then that question came back again.  “What is keeping you from following God where He is leading you?”  The answer? Our house.  Our permanency in our current location.  That was the answer.  Now, I don’t want to imply that if you want to follow God you need to sell your house or move or anything like that.  On the contrary, I believe most people are supposed to stay where they are, and do what God has for them right there.  But for the first time in a while I felt like God had something for me and my family someplace other than where we currently are.  We prayed.

A few days later at the closing service of our PLI gathering we took turns praying over the people in our coaching groups.  As Kristy and I were being prayed over one of the people in our group said, “I sense the spirit of Abraham ans Sarah with you two, Michael and Kristy…”This person had no idea what we had been discussing over the past couple of days.  I immediately knew what this meant.  God’s call to Abraham was one that called Him away from the land where he lived, away from his family, to the place God would show him.  What did this mean to me?  This was the confirmation I needed to confidently decide to sell our house, knowing that God had a different place in store for us.  perhaps someplace foreign to the both of us. 

We kept and even firmed up the contingency plan to move in with my mom and step-dad, but the confirmation we received in that prayer made the thought of moving in with my mom seem backwards.  After all, Abraham was called to move away from his father not to move back in with him.  I told Kristy that even though we were making these plans with my family that she shouldn’t be surprised if something else comes along before we have to move out of our house.  

About a week after getting back from Omaha I wrote a newsletter article to St. John’s Church telling them that Kristy and I were going to be selling our house and staying at my mom’s, so that I could continue ministry in the area until God gave us a new place to move to…whether it was near or far off.  We began the work of interviewing Realtors and getting our house showroom ready for listing.  We donated at least four minivan loads full of stuff to Goodwill and other local charities. We patched up nicks and repainted about half of the walls at our place.  I worked through the night four or five times in a couple week span trying to get our home ready for pictures and for the market.  Oh, and something happened in the middle of all of this. 

One Monday just after noon, Kristy got a phone call.  A message on her voicemail actually.  It was from a pastor of a church out in Michigan.  The message went something like this:

“Hey there Kristy, you probably don’t remember me – there is no reason why you should – but I am Pastor Jim Richter.  I met you and your husband several years ago at CPAC (Church Planter Assessment Center).  The reason I am calling is that we have a position that we are trying to fill at our congregation and God just keeps bringing your name to mind.  I was wondering if you would be interested in interviewing for it.  The position is for Director of Family Life Ministries.  I remember that you are certified as a DCE (Director of Christian Education). If you are interested in interviewing for the position give me a call.  I can fill you in a bit more about the position and we can set up an interview time with the call committee.”

We were floored, to say the least.  We tried to temper our excitement by saying things like, “We don’t know if this is going to happen or not.” and “Even if this doesn’t pan out, it is still a huge blessing, the joy and encouragement we are getting from this.”  But the simple fact is we couldn’t  help but see God’s hands all over this.  And it was exciting.  

Kristy had a phone interview with the call committee the following Monday and was asked at the end of it if she could come out for a face-to-face interview.  They offered to fly us both out in a couple of weekends…I was already schedule to be a guest preacher at a place near our home.  We asked if it work that coming weekend (Mother’s Day weekend).  They said yes.  So, we handed off our kids to my mom for a few nights and the two of us flew out to Michigan. Oh and by the way, we got our place showroom ready and listed Wednesday (a few days before flying out).  While we were gone our house was empty; perfect for any spur of the moment showings. No kids to mess things up…no us to mess things up.  While we were gone we had a brokers’ open house on Saturday, a showing on Sunday…Sunday night we got an offer! We countered… our counter was accepted!  We shared the news with the congregation members we had been meeting with.  It was congrats to us all around.  

We flew back home on Tuesday morning.  Our home inspection was today.  We got word from the congregation in Michigan that Kristy is one of two people they are considering for the call.  They will have a call committee meeting this Sunday and then a voters meeting the Wed. after Memorial Day.  I am hoping to set the closing day for our house by June 15th.  Prayers concerning all of this are very welcome.  Pray that God’s will is done and that we will faithfully follow where He leads.  God is Good!