Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The New Normal

It is currently zero degrees outside. Zero degrees. This may not seem like something significant to the many millions of people in our great nation who regularly experience the fifth season (spring, fall, summer, winter, frigid), but for me it marks yet another line in the sand as I become acquainted with my new normal.

My backyard is covered in snow. Not my friends' backyard where we are visiting. Not the backyard of a picture I happen to be viewing. Not even the imaginary backyard I pictured covered in snow while still living where there are only two seasons (fog, and not fog). Nope. None of these, but my actual backyard. It's another new normal.

We worshipped at our new normal church.

I bought groceries at my new normal store.

My kids played at their new normal friends' houses.

I now have a heated water bottle for the rabbit hutch, salt pellets for a water softener, and a fridge that provides filtered drinking water out of the door. Every one a new normal.

In fact, besides some basic facts regarding my name and some legal documentation that permanently connects me to eight little people and one man, there is just about nothing left of my old normal.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just - is.

I am learning to like the new normal and be content to simply remember the old normal with fondness. It takes time to make new associations, build new relationships, figure out the best route for that 10pm sweet tooth craving. I know that it will all come in time.

And while I wait I sit here, considering the magnitude of what brought me to this point in the story, and shake my head that God made it all work.

Evangeline - who will only ever remember the new normal

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Why Idaho (Part 4... Finale?)

[Please read Why Idaho (Part 1), (Part 2), and (Part 3)]

Christ Community Church in Idaho Falls is a medium sized church that’s big enough to allow for diverse ministry but small enough to remain personal. The teaching is biblical, the youth program is robust, and the dedication to liberty in Christian non-essentials is strong. Plus, they have an accessible website that provides the viewer with a clear picture of their upcoming schedule. We could see quickly that Christ Community Church (CCC) was serious about the gospel and community. We liked them immediately.

So, in early May, we did what any strong, bible-believing Christian should do upon finding a potential church home. We sent them an intimidating email! Christopher, in his enthusiasm to connect with the senior pastor at CCC and share his delight in finding a like-minded church, wrote a note detailing our plans to relocate and his joy in finding CCC. He also happened to express his theological views on certain matters with - ahem - pointed clarity. But, apparently God was preparing not only our hearts but the hearts of those we are to join in Idaho, because instead of being labelled as crazy we received an email response from Pastor Dan Smouse welcoming us to the area and sharing that he would be delighted to meet with us at some point in the future. 

The connection with a real person in Idaho Falls made us giddy. Suddenly it wasn’t just a geographic location it was the home of people with a heart for Jesus who would be our partners in ministry - and life. We quickly recognized the need to make good on Dan’s invitation so we booked a family trip for the week surrounding Labor Day weekend. As the time drew near Christopher researched travel and accommodations options and I began emailing and calling the pastors and ministry leaders at CCC to gather information and set up meetings. It wasn’t long before I felt like some of these people were long-time friends and going to meet them was akin to seeing a dear loved one after an extended time apart. 

It felt like August 29 would never arrive, but soon enough we were packed and driving off into the sunset. Many of you followed us on Facebook as we journeyed for 21 hours through some of the loneliest roads in America while our family slowly succumbed to a viral infection of hand-foot-&-mouth disease. I’m sure it could have been worse, but I’m also pretty sure a watermelon won’t fit up my nose - just because you know something doesn’t mean it gives you any comfort. 

We rolled into Idaho Falls in the late afternoon on Friday. The decision to camp was a pretty easy one. With eight children the idea of staying in a hotel for 9 nights on a budget is ludicrous. Good friends of ours lent us their travel trailer so between it and our tent we had a pretty spiffy campsite in quick order. I felt like a million dollars as I easily pulled food out of a refrigerator and prepared a bottle using hot water from the tap. Yep, this trip was going to be good! But then Saturday dawned.

Our campsite on the Snake River
It’s not even worth the time to type all the ways we were spiritually attacked during our trip. Sickness ultimately took all but two of the children - causing high fevers and incapacitating headaches. This significantly altered our plans for meetings and get-togethers. Our trailer’s air conditioning broke on the morning of our 4th day in camp while Idaho Falls was experiencing record breaking heat. Miscommunication and frayed nerves created strain and exhaustion. By the time we pulled out of town the following Sunday we should have been more than ready to say good-bye. We should have - but we weren’t.

To say the good outweighed the bad would be an understatement. Actually, a better way would be to say that the good shone all the brighter because of the bad. Time and again the members of CCC as well as people within the larger faith community came together to encourage us and to help us. The outpouring of hospitality, care, and support given to us during our 10 day visit was phenomenal. We went to Idaho Falls in hopes of making a few connections, but we left with a whole pocketful of friends.

But the point of the trip wasn’t just to find friends. One of the many amazing benefits to being a part of the body of Christ is the wonderful way in which friendships can be forged quickly. This alone is not a confirmation that God is moving you to another church. However, the uncanny way in which our heart, passion and gifts for various aspects of church life are exactly the places CCC is growing is confirmation. The fact that our desire to come alongside and participate with CCC in their heart towards the LDS community is confirmation (specifically in regards to this - Christopher’s meeting with a local missionary, Mike Ghiglia, inspired us both. And his affirmation that our choice of church couldn’t be better suited for matching our heart for ministry caused us to be so thankful for God’s perfect direction). And the way in which our prayers, the prayers of dear loved ones back in CA and new loved ones in ID continued to arouse in us a deep sense of peace towards relocating was in itself a strong confirmation.

Ironically it was now my turn to carry the torch for pursuing our dream with fervor. Christopher was entirely sold out on the move. He was also somewhat stuck on the June 2014 date. I was ready. Now. And I just didn’t see any reason why we needed to hold off for 9 months. I knew that Christopher was emotionally and spiritually ready, too. He just needed a little reminding that when God calls people to do crazy things (like move their entire life to Idaho on a “whim”) He will also provide all the necessary infrastructure to make it happen. As we prepared to leave Idaho Falls he was still struggling with exactly how we could make a move happen any sooner. But when we pulled out of the town and began the drive westward our entire family experienced something so totally unexpected that it took us all by surprise:


Standing in front of the Welcome To Idaho sign along US-93

At first I passed it off as the inevitable dip that can happen after an emotion-filled event. But the further that we drove, the sadder I was. And finally, just as we passed over into California, amongst some of the most beautiful scenery our state has to offer, Christopher looked around him and said, “This isn’t our home anymore.” We were back; but we weren’t home.

We are still very much in the middle of our story. Our house in CA was listed on MLS just a few days ago. We are praying that God puts us into the perfect home for His mission in Idaho. We have relationships and responsibilities that we are sad to see go. And there is still fear. Mostly we fear that our passion to pursue the Lord at whatever cost will be misunderstood. It is hard to take a step out in faith and buck all convention. It is also what God is regularly in the business of calling people to do. There is a cost to participate in something that is bigger than yourself. There is also a reward - and we don’t want to miss out on any of it!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why Idaho (Part 3)

[Please read Why Idaho (Part 1) and (Part 2)]

So, Christopher and I began 2013 with a clear direction for Eastern Idaho; but any sense of urgency was hidden behind too many unanswered questions and fear. We have a solid church home and supportive family of faith that help us grow, nurture us, and challenge us to move beyond our comfort zone. While we cognitively understood that other churches existed which could meet these needs it felt impossible to find one. Cursory internet searches were not revealing anything beyond a cookie-cutter set of options. And Christopher’s connection with Steve in Nauvoo was encouraging, but it was in Illinois. We weren’t moving to Illinois. Added to that was the disappointment that Steve didn’t have any strong ministry connections in Idaho. We felt stumped. And I felt scared.

Remember how I said that I always thought I needed to live where my mom lived, and her mom lived, and her mom lived? Well, the realization that I was excited about moving felt incredibly freeing. The realization that I was going to need to break the news to my family felt - well, not. I was allowing fear to control a great deal of me, and Christopher saw it. He knew God was never going to reveal more of His desire for us until I moved forward in faith. And I knew I would never be able to openly share my excitement or challenges until I shared with my family. We vaguely named Summer of 2014 as our move date when Christopher had returned from his trip in October of 2012. With that date feeling safely nebulous (and far away), I sat down to share with my mom our news. She was not thrilled with the idea of us moving away, but she recognized that we were excited about this new possibility and she gave us her blessing.

Phew. With that done I settled into a new kind of safety net - one that recognized God’s calling, but also lived in total safety that the actual implementation of that calling was too far off to cause me any real concern. I could have my cake and eat it, too. Unfortunately, I secretly knew I was strangling the vision God was taking so much time to craft into our hearts. But I had no idea how to break free. Christopher came to my rescue one evening in early March. We had just finished eating out for dinner and as we headed back to the car he announced, as though we were deciding whether to stop for frozen yogurt or ice cream, “I’ve decided that we are going to move on June 15.”


I’m pretty sure my heart stopped. I know it at least skipped a beat, maybe two. I have no idea how I managed to keep my composure while we got into the car. It was one thing to speak of a season, but quite another to name a date! I vaguely remember saying something to the effect of, “Umm.” Christopher interpreted that to mean, “Wow! Really? That’s so exciting! Can you tell me what made you decide to pick that date?” Of course in hindsight I’m so glad he thought that’s what I said, because his answers were strangely calming. He spoke about the fear he saw in me, and even in himself. He said he knew that if we didn’t set a date we were much more likely to simply let our determination for the move fade away. It was precisely what I knew I was doing; and in listening to him speak about the need to make bold decisions that would keep that kind of apathy at bay I regained my own footing. Once again, we were on track.

March 1, 2013 - 16 year anniversary
With June 15, 2014 set firmly on our calendars we started working on details in earnest. The first major hump we needed to crest was clearly establishing what exactly our mission was in moving. We knew we wanted to live in a community that allowed us to befriend and minister the gospel to members of the LDS church. We also knew we wanted to experience a higher quality of life through a lower cost of living. And belonging to a strong, bible-believing church was a non-negotiable. With our three-legged stool sitting squarely in front of us we began the arduous task of searching, and researching, and then doing it again. Idaho Falls kept landing in our laps for two of our criteria, but a church home remained elusive. We were beginning to grow desperate.

The most difficult thing about this part of the journey was the sense of abandonment we felt towards God. It is never easy to admit that you are struggling with feeling deserted by Christ. It was doubly hard for us, because we were so sure that the move to Idaho was something He wanted us to do. But where was the church? Where was the body of believers He was giving to us for support, growth, accountability, and friendship? Were we missing it? Over and over again we ran searches on google and church registry websites. But always the results were the same: cookie cutter options. The only two notable exceptions were both on the western side of the state. There had to be at least one church that loved God, believed in His word, had a vibrant youth program, utilized small groups, and was strong on the essentials while being gentle in the nonessentials. But we couldn’t seem to find it. We finally prayed... 

It is so humbling when God quickly and decisively answers your prayers. It is even more humbling when you know you were fumbling around for way too long before committing it to prayer in the first place. The day after we honestly confessed our need for supernatural direction we found a possible church home. Christopher did a quick search on The Gospel Coalition’s website, a voluntary affiliation of pastors and churches  committed to biblical authenticity in personal faith and corporate ministry, and found three results for Idaho - one in Nampa, one in Pocatello, and one in Idaho Falls. 

To Be Continued... Part 4