Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tennessee Bound... When Life Comes Full Circle

It's so amazing when life comes full circle.

And full circle is where I find myself today. Packing up. Relocating. Moving to Franklin, Tennessee... Again.

Mid-October I wrote a post sharing about my family's move back to Franklin, a city we lived in for almost a decade.  Since then, so much has happened...

God has blessed me with a job as a Communications Director for New Hope Academy, a wonderful private Christian school in Franklin. New Hope is as much a ministry as a school. With over half its student population receiving financial assistance, New Hope serves the lower income community like no other school I know.

God has also blessed my husband Anthony with a new position, serving the Nashville Rescue Mission as Director of its recovery ministry. This too will be a deep, life-changing assignment. It's a transition from pastoral ministry, but we're excited to see how the Lord will use Ant's work to turn the hearts of people entangled in the web of substance abuse back to Him.

And... After much searching - and hours surfing Realtracs, Zillow and Trulia - we've also found a new home.

All this has brought us full circle.

Not only are we moving back to Franklin. We are moving back to the very community we started in - Fieldstone Farms.

Also, our oldest son Kalin began school at New Hope Academy. And as a matter of fact, I've got to tell an interesting story about that. Pull up a chair...

You know how there are certain events in history when everyone remembers exactly where they were at that time? If you ask someone where they were on 9/11, you'll often get an earful about where they were, what they were doing, what they were thinking, and most important - what they were feeling. 9/11 changed us all.

Well, when someone asks me where I was on 9/11, my answer is New Hope Academy - on the first day of school. School started late that year because construction on the new building ran behind schedule. Imagine that? A building project running behind schedule.

Sorry, I digress...

Anyway, we were at New Hope, enjoying the first devotional gathering of the year. We'd sung worship songs, read scriptures and had a blessed time so far. In the middle of the service, the Headmaster steps to the front of the library and says, "We need to pray right now. A plane just collided into one of the Twin Towers."

You could hear exclaims and moans around the room.

We immediately joined hands around the room and prayed for the lost lives we were sure we'd hear about later. It wasn't until I was home that I realized New York, and the US as a whole, had experienced a terrorist attack. Not until after the second plane hit.

It was a day and time I'll never forget.

Well, a week ago, the reality of life coming full circle became so real to me. I stood in the very same New Hope Academy library, enjoying morning devotions once again. And once again, I was amazed at how God writes the story of our lives. To think that this is the place I'll soon serve. Only He could orchestrate this stuff.

And yet... God's hand in all this doesn't make moving any easier. It doesn't make me any less sad to leave Conway, Arkansas, our home of 5 years. It doesn't make me any happier to leave the church we've called home, the relationships we've forged, the schools our children have attended and the nonprofit ministry I've served.

I'll miss Conway.

Change is hard. Relocating is challenging. Packing up and moving on creates a little hole inside. At least for a good while.

But this is a season that God is building my trust in Him.

It's a season that He's revealing His great faithfulness - morning by morning.

It's a season that He's proving my favorite Bible verse over and over...
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Through the challenges and pain and losses I have known -- and YOU have known -- God is faithful. He has a plan. And it's a good one. It's a plan full of hope and an amazing future.

Let's choose to trust Him in this season.

And the next.

And the next.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Paris Terrorist Attack: How Then Shall We Live?

If you're like me, you've been watching the 24-hour news stories about yesterday's terrorist attack on Paris, France. 

If you're like me, you were mortified over the news.

If you're like me, you're asking lots of questions...

How can people have such hatred for perfect strangers?

Why do such horrible things happen to good people?

How do we make sense of the senseless?

I honestly don't have answers to these real life questions. And yet, today I purposefully opened my heart to God's voice while praying over this tragedy. 

This is what I heard God say in my spirit...

Carla, you've spent most of your Christian life pursuing comfort and safety. But I haven't called you, or any of my children, to a life of safety. 
Instead of a life of safety, I've called you to a life of meaning and purpose.

Hearing these words from the Lord made me think about The Barbarian Way, a book written by one of my favorite preachers, Erwin McManus. Erwin, who pastors Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, shares these words in The Barbarian Way. (Note: Hang in there until the last word of this quote. It's longer than a 140 character tweet. But it's good...)

Jesus understood that His purpose was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness... Instead of finding confidence to live as we should regardless of circumstances... we choose the path of least resistance, least difficulty, least sacrifice. Instead of concluding it is best to be wherever God wants us to be, we have decided that wherever it is best for us to be is where God wants us. Actually, God's will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution. God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance. God created you so that your life would count, not so you could count the days of your life.

Amen Brother.

We live in an era when stuff can pop off at any given moment. Threats are all around - threats to our safety, to our children's safety. We are surrounded by the reality that at any second - in a movie theater, in a high school classroom, even in the supposed security of bible study on a Wednesday night - our lives could be taken from us, seemingly prematurely.

But we are still called to walk in faith and love and hope.

We are still called to live and walk in purpose.

We are still called to fight for those with no strength, to speak for those with no voice.

We are not called to count our days, but to make sure our days count for Christ.

And when we leave this world, we can know that we have lived a life of courage and honor and meaning.

We can know that we lived for Him.