Sometime soon after moving to Louisiana in 2013, I began reading the Bible from the beginning.
I would read while I held the baby for his naps, and then, at bedtime, tell the boys the stories I had read that day.
They LOVED it.
By early summer 2013, I was in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy finds the Israelites at the Jordan River; on the other side is the land God promised them. God had taught and tested and brought them through the wilderness; they were ready to cross the Jordan and take the Promised Land.
But before they could go into the Promised Land – their “next thing” – Moses took time to remind them where they had come from, what lessons God had taught them, and challenged them to NOT FORGET those years when they were settled in the Promised Land.
Moses spent the entire book of Deuteronomy, 34 chapters, standing at the Jordan but not crossing it.
As I read Deuteronomy, the Lord said,
“This is where you are now.”
Oh, how wonderful that was to hear. A new place!
No more wilderness, no more Red Sea.
We were standing near the Jordan.
Crossing was the next step.
But before we could cross, He needed to shore up some things, reinforce some lessons, make sure we remembered well what He had taught us during the darker days.
And I realized then that, if it took Moses a whole book to prep the people to cross the Jordan, then God probably wasn’t going to take us across very soon.
So, we continued to wait on Him.
A year later, during the summer of 2014, I worked at a local ministry that held a day camp for children in the lower income areas of town. (Maybe the illnesses of winter were also immunity-prep for this?)
That ministry ended mid-July.
This left us waiting.
We decided to go to our Father, as we had many times, to ask for what we needed.
Near the end of July 2014, we made a list of what we felt we needed most: income, house, routine, and some activity for the boys to do that fall.
Of course, we were asking for these things in the context of continuing to wait on Him, temporary things until He decided it was time to “cross the Jordan.”
We read the list to the kids and all prayed together often for several days.
We had no idea God would make much of this opportunity and we would soon get to stick our toes in the Jordan.
I was invited to lead worship for a homecoming celebration at a church in my central Louisiana hometown.
The homecoming service went fine. I sang, I played. The preacher preached.
But in the midst of the normalcy, God spoke something so simply and quietly that I might have missed it were He not such a good Father Who doesn’t hide His will from us.
He spoke during the preaching.
The preacher spoke of God wanting His people to be prepared to follow Him wherever He leads. The key story he referenced was Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land.
Huh, what are the odds he’d use that scripture? I thought.
…wonder if I’m selling God short with my list of temporary things…what if He wants to take us across the Jordan?
Less than a second of thought, and that was it.
I put it aside to let God make more of it if He wanted.
After we ate lunch, we had barely made an attempt to load everyone in the van when Laura said, “So, did anything stand out to you in the message?”
“Ummm…” I said, sweat running down my face, kids climbing trees and running around the van.
“Let me think.”
My mind went back to the preacher mentioning crossing the Jordan.
God had already told us we were standing near the Jordan in Deuteronomy.
Was it time to cross?
Is that what Laura was talking about…if she meant anything at all?
It was. Laura had taken notice of the same point in the message. After some discussion on our way back to Laura’s parents’ house, we began to suspect the Lord was saying something here.
We felt like He had made us an offer:
Do you want the temporary things on your list and a few years of rest?
are you willing to cross the Jordan now?
Are we willing to cross the Jordan now?!
Yes, yes, and YES!
We knew the answer “yes” would not mean days of plenty and comfort were ahead any more than they were for the Israelites when they crossed. But, still, the offer was unbelievable.
The Lord had interrupted our prayer for the things on our list, similar to how He changed my question 5 years earlier when I was asking for a plan at HeartLand.
We couldn’t continue to pray for those things until the Lord showed us if it was indeed time to cross the Jordan.
By Sunday evening, we decided to diligently ask Him,
“Is it time to cross the Jordan?”
Prayer quickly went to the top of the to-do list.
We had been learning to ask God what He wanted us to do and to do it; this time, He told us to “pray.”
On Monday we prayed as a family every hour on the hour, asking our question. By Monday evening, to our astonishment, we felt He was saying “yes” and our prayer was already morphing into,
“If it is time, then where do we go?”
Work that week was keeping me from praying as I felt I should, so I cancelled several jobs. I had never done that before!
If it is time to cross the Jordan, where should we go?
That afternoon we took the kids for their biweekly dip in the neighbors’ pool. While the kids swam, Laura and I talked.
She asked, “Do you think God has already told us where we’re going?”
My initial answer was the same for every question she has asked me since we got married:
“I don’t know.”
She continued, “I keep thinking east Tennessee. When I ask God, ‘Where?’ my mind focuses on east Tennessee.”
I realized then that all morning I had been thinking the same thing. When I asked God, “Where?” my mind’s eye was roaming east Tennessee.
Over the next couple of days, the Lord gave multiple confirmations that He was indeed saying something about east Tennessee. We knew we needed to visit, and the heaviness to pray lifted sometime Thursday.
We counted our money and found we had just enough to make the trip.
The prayer conversation would pick up later after we visited.
Preparing to go to east Tennesse and the trip itself had their own faith tests and provisions, but I think those stories are part of another blog series someday.
In short, after more conversation with God, more new lessons, and multiple confirmations through His Word and other believers we trust, God said, “Go.”
After 5 years of saying, “Wait”…
He was finally saying, “Go.”
What a beautiful little word.
After 5 years of waiting and big to-do, we thought He would move us overseas to some unreached people group, like He did our friends. Instead, His destination for us was much closer to home. The general plan He has put in our hearts is to go to the Johnson City area, in the hills and valleys snuggled against the Appalachian Mountains, and plant our family there to meet needs and spread the Gospel.
We also plan to start a family business where we can work together as a family…possibly an eatery/store designed to invite the community to come eat and stay a while. We hope to create a simple-country atmosphere with real food, gardens, flowers, and porch swings – much like our Coldwater place – and hope the refreshing atmosphere will give us an entrance into the community and a window through which to see needs that can be met and opportunities to tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As people are saved, a church could naturally form and we could use the store, in addition to houses, as a place to meet.
We could host special meals for the homeless or those in poverty.
We could take meals to the homeless in the area and get to know them, hopefully seeing God answer their prayers for provision as He has ours for 5 years of life-changing insanity.
And of course, all these ideas are subject to His tweaking.
They are HIS ideas anyway.
And He has prepared us for this. He was crazy enough and gracious enough to pull us out of “normal life” five years ago to teach us what we needed to understand to walk with Him in this next adventure.
Here we go!
During The Waiting Years, I envisioned “the next thing” as something God would do suddenly, all in one package.
I thought He would say “Here’s your job. Here’s your ministry. Here’s your house. Here’s your new life.”
But He didn’t do that.
Actually, when He ended the waiting and said, “Go,” nothing physically changed.
Our circumstances didn’t change a bit.
We still live with my in-laws.
I am writing this in their laundry room.
We rest more easily in His provision now, but there are still weeks where groceries are figured to the penny.
We still have unpaid bills tucked away in a folder, waiting on Him.
What has changed is that God has spoken.
He has said.
He has said, “Go,” and that changes everything.
It puts us in a place of faith.
The reality of reaching people in east Tennessee is only seen by faith right now.
But when God speaks, it is counted as done.
Just like we are counted righteous – not by being righteous – but by having faith that Jesus died for us, we count that we are as good as living in the hills of Appalachia.
Whatever is needed, He will provide.
Whatever direction is necessary, He will give.
He is leading us across our “Jordan” and it requires every bit as much faith as it did to cross the Red Sea.
But that’s how He likes it, isn’t it?
He likes people to trust Him.
Where there is faith.
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD…
The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace…
And the LORD said unto Moses, …speak unto the children of Israel,
that they GO FORWARD.”