Sunday Night Suppers

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31 Days Not According to PlanAlmost two years ago, my brother started looking into jobs and fellowships as the next step in his medical career. When he shared an extensive list of places he was considering, I had a novel idea: what if we tried to live near each other?

I put the idea out there and my brother said, “Oh yeah, if Mom or Dad have an episode at some point, you’re going to have to be around to help take care of them.”

Not exactly what I’d been trying to communicate. I guess it makes sense that medical emergencies would be foremost on a doctor’s mind though.

 

Planning to live near my brother didn’t work out. But living near him when life didn’t go according to plan did.

My brother and his wife moved to Baltimore for a one year fellowship while Ben and I were still planning to live in Cambodia for a year. I hadn’t lived in the same state as my brother since high school, and now he was moving to the city I’d called home just three years earlier. I couldn’t believe it.

The most I could share in the experience with him was offering tips on where to go and what to do in Baltimore. He likes to forge his own path though, so before long, I went back to focusing on Skype calls with people in Cambodia.

Little did I know, three months later, I would be packing boxes to join him in Charm City.

 

Upon arriving in Maryland, my brother and sister-in-law welcomed Ben and me with lunch – the first of many meals together in their Harbor East neighborhood.

Sunday night suppers quickly became a tradition. Before and after eating, we bonded over UNO and Play Station’s DuckTales, bringing back long-forgotten childhood memories for my brother and me while forging new ones with our spouses.

Playing UNO brought back childhood memories while forging new ones.

Differences among the four of us became less prominent over time. At the start of our season together, I left the oven door open to let out residual heat. My sister-in-law looked at me like I was crazy and said she could turn up the heat if I was cold.

By the end of our time together, she and my brother understood our frugal, waste-averse nature enough to hand make a birthday card for Ben – and seal it in a used business envelope with black electrical tape.

When we celebrated my winter birthday, my brother wore a suit, my sister-in-law wore a sequined top with dress pants, and Ben and I wore jeans with nice sweaters. By spring, I was learning how to twist my hair up fancy and hoping for a reason to get dressed up.

 

Miraculously, discussing controversial topics like Obamacare and biblical teachings also drew us closer together. My sister-in-law and I think more similarly than my brother and I ever did, so she inherently provided common ground and, at times, mediated communications. Meanwhile, Ben’s gift for building relationships had us all laughing at moments when I would have otherwise simply sat in awkwardness.

Good wine and chocolate helped too. For weeks, we ended each evening by carefully cutting several squares of chocolate my brother and sister-in-law had brought back from New York City into four pieces – one for each of us to taste and guess the flavor.

We cut Jacques Torres chocolates into pieces for all of us to share.

As kids, my brother and I would fill a paper bag with hand-selected jelly beans at the local candy store. Then we’d have each other guess the flavors one by one while listening to a brass band play summer favorites on the town lawn.

Over the years, our tastes have matured from buttered popcorn, cotton candy, and toasted marshmallow flavored jelly beans to ancho chili, champagne, and Earl Grey flavored chocolates. (To be honest, I’ve always been partial to chocolates, but I suffered jelly beans for the sake of entertainment.)

 

I cherish those seven months of Sunday nights with family. We still have an abundance to learn about each other and we’re currently struggling to coordinate Christmas travels, but we now have a groundwork for relating to each other as adults. We better understand similarities, differences, quirks, frustrations, and joys.

Thanks to life not going according to plan, I now have more than jelly beans to go on with my brother.

I suspect life is indeed going according to Someone’s plan.

Jelly Beans!

Photo courtesy of Milind Alvares.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho…

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31 Days Not According to PlanThanks for giving me some room to breathe in this 31 days of blogging. I turned in the grant proposal and am getting ready to attack more of the house. I was thinking of you all though and wanted to share more before disappearing into the abyss of cardboard boxes.

So where was I? Ah, yes…nesting and jobs. We were living with our friends, their dog, and their baby paraphernalia when an editor unexpectedly offered me freelance work. Praise the Lord! We had a roof, a community, and some income.

Meanwhile, a man at church offered Ben temporary work as a handyman assistant. The hours, pay, experience, and boss were far more appealing than any retail job. So Ben started building decks and repairing holes while I researched footnote content.

The editing would result in only two or three projects a year, so I continued looking for work.

A friend at church suggested connecting with the executive director of a nonprofit who also attends our church (starting to see a theme here?). The nonprofit, Acts4Youth, provides mentoring for at-risk boys in Baltimore City and was looking for a part-time grant writer.

I’m a writer – check. I used to work for a nonprofit – check. I care deeply about at-risk kids – check.

So I applied. I was thrilled when I got the job. I couldn’t have asked for a more humble, approachable boss or a better job situation.

Eight hours a week still didn’t provide health insurance though, so I continued looking for additional work. One interview after another led to both disappointment and relief (I was terrified of ending up at another dysfunctional organization).

Trader-Joe's

When Trader Joe’s offered me 30 hours a week and health insurance after four months, I said aloha to a stack of Hawaiian shirts. I was surprised by how many friends were excited to hear I was working there – I think it was because of the shirt and the bell ringing.

Every other week, I came home with a tub of miniature chocolate chip cookies for my friend and a box of bon bons for myself.

I wasn’t thrilled about getting up at 4:00 am or getting home at midnight, but once again, it seemed like God was up to something. I connected with coworkers more quickly than expected and some were interested to hear I’d recently moved from Portland. Come to think of it, Trader Joe’s was a micro version of Portland – tattoos, piercings, skinny jeans, and alternative lifestyles abounded.

My coworker friend who’d cut her hair so it stuck out every which way in fantastic punk rock fashion was preparing to move to Portland. A chipper contrast to her aloofness, I was far more excited to make the connection than she was. That is, until my typically reserved coworker unabashedly whipped out a business card for me.

“Your painting reminds me of one of my friend’s works,” I remarked.

“Who’s your friend?” she asked.

“Stephanie Buer.”

“You know Stephanie Buer?!”

Apparently my friend is famous among artists across the nation. Suddenly my skinny jeans clad coworker and I had lots to talk about.

I connected her to my renowned (be sure to read that with a snooty British accent) Portland friend and shared tips on where to live and explore. I loved getting to know this coworker and reminisce about Portland with her.

Other Trader Joe’s favorites were my bread stocking friend; the “jingle wizard” whose approach you knew because of his bell-lined clothes and tall, purple hat; the coworker who impeded a transvestite from leaving the parking lot because he’d lined his clothes with hundreds of dollars of stolen meat; and unloading groceries from the carts of friends past and present.

bon-bon

Trader Joe’s has the best bon bons ever because of that little layer of cake (and they only paid me a month-and-a-half to say that).

Creating Room to Breathe

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31 Days Not According to Plan

I spent all of today shopping. For the record, that is not this girl’s dream-come-true.

It was kinda fun though because I was looking for items to set up house. Because we have a house to set up!

But that also means we have a house to set up. Between settling in, meeting work deadlines, volunteering, and blogging, I am not a little overwhelmed.

 

Ben and I left the house at 3:00 this afternoon to buy a washer and dryer. Our intention was to leave early so we could get home early – the opposite of what we’d been doing the past week.

Amazingly enough, purchasing the appliances went incredibly quickly. We bought refurbished ones, so there weren’t a lot of high-tech, energy-saving choices to deliberate.

Tip of the day: Look at how blue a dryer is inside to assess how much it’s been used. Very blue = used a lot. White = hardly used. The fantastic owner of High End Appliances let us in on this secret right before replacing the cord on our microwave for free. Great business!

 
Buying the appliances went smoothly. What led to us not getting home until 10:00 at night was stopping at two Targets, two Bed, Bath, and Beyonds, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls.

In the middle of checking out items at Target, my phone alerted me that the play about sex trafficking I’d really wanted to see was about to start. I’d completely forgotten about the play in the midst of the ongoing errands.

 

I’d become used to the simplicity of moving one carload of belongings into other people’s furnished homes. I’d forgotten all that’s involved when moving in an entire household, particularly when you’ve sold many of the large items before moving.

I’d become used to the simplicity of moving one carload of belongings into other people’s furnished homes.

Pardon the lighting – we’re still looking for lamps.

 

Over an impromptu dinner at Bonefish Grill (that was something that worked out beautifully today: I remembered I had a gift card in my wallet as we drove by hungry), I asked my husband what he thought about the possibility of me spreading out the 31 Days of Blogging beyond October.

Merely suggesting the idea created more room to breathe.

It also keeps with the theme of this blog series – sometimes life just doesn’t go according to plan, and that’s okay.

So I’ve decided to spread out the (Not) According to Plan series a bit more. At least until my major work deadline is met next week, I plan to post only every few days. I’ll still write 31 entries, just not every single day in October.

I hope you’ll keep following the series – there’s lots more to share. I still haven’t told you about the dog attack, the trip to France, or the free car!

A Door Opens

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31 Days Not According to Plan

Baltimore is not the city where young people go to retire. I was therefore counting on work being easier to find there than in Portland.

I’d suspected for a while that it hadn’t been just the Portland economy keeping me from more than the occasional odd job though. After applying for more than 200 jobs in a year-and-a-half, I came to believe that perhaps God was keeping me from gainful employment as a means of leading me into rest and healing.

I could only hear so many times that I was fantastic but someone else got the job before I started to wonder if the pattern might indicate something. My husband and I agreed I needed to stop spinning my wheels and embrace the rest and healing.

More than a year later – three months before we ended up moving back east – I was hired as a courtesy clerk at New Seasons Market. The pattern had been broken. Surely I would find work again in Baltimore.

 

Knowing that Ben could find a pastorate anywhere along the East Coast and wanting to move towards me being able to not work (we kept coming back to that list we’d made), we decided I would focus my job search on freelance writing.

It only took one month and a handful of conversations about the lengthy ordination process of most denominations before we became discouraged. The pastorate search was going to take much longer than we’d anticipated.

I of course responded by running out to find a full time job.

Within weeks, I had several interviews scheduled, none of which led to a job I felt able to accept.

 

Meanwhile, God was up to something else entirely. He seemed to have been more concerned with our list of desires than we were.

Without any prompting on my part other than perhaps a LinkedIn résumé update, an editor I’d worked with for two months ten years ago contacted me. He’d just started a new job and wanted to know if I’d be interested in doing some freelance editing for him.

Suddenly a door had opened.

A Nest in Disarray

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31 Days Not According to PlanWhen Ben and I arrived in Baltimore, I felt as though we’d never left.

Our friends greeted us with a feast of London broil and corn salsa. Another friend who’d just returned from travels joined us. Between anticipating the birth of a first child, living in Ireland, and returning from the West Coast, we all had plenty to catch up on.

We received an impromptu invitation that night to another friend’s birthday party. She’d invited just close friends, and we were delighted to still be among them. We were so in sync with the friends at her party that they hardly even asked about our time in Portland – we caught up as though we’d seen each other regularly over the past three years.

 

Because of the depth of these friendships, we figured it wouldn’t be a strain to lean into them during this season of uncertainty. For the most part, it wasn’t.

But having four adults live together in a townhouse when two of them are expecting their first child and two are living in total upheaval was a bit overoptimistic.

Our friends were incredibly gracious to entertain the idea, let alone to welcome us for three months.

I’d naïvely thought because the baby was still in the womb, there wouldn’t be much transition or stress. No sleep deprivation or attachment struggles or parental anxiety.

How’s a girl to know that frequent trips to the bathroom and the discomfort of a watermelon rolling around in your stomach lead to lack of sleep? Or that painful tingling in your appendages and juggling regular doctor visits can lead to parental anxiety?

I anticipated our friend wanting to nest, but I thought that meant painting a nursery and decorating it with cute furniture.

Nesting in all senses of the word.

A friend’s adorable nursery.

Little did I know nesting could mean selling the majority of your furniture on Craigslist, reorganizing the entire house, and covering the floors with baby gifts as you deliberate which ones to return.

This all makes perfect sense to me now. But at the time, I was too disoriented and overwhelmed to understand.

 

I imagine the friends we lived with were experiencing something akin to the phenomenon I experience right before going on a long trip.

Whenever I leave for more than three days, I scramble to clean up messy rooms, run errands, return borrowed items, wash clothes, vacuum seal frozen food, and reply to emails. I want to have everything as orderly as possible when I return.

Of course the last few months before having a baby would be similar. Who knows when you’ll have time to complete unfinished projects again?

And that hand-me-down furniture you’ve been wanting to get rid of for years? It’s time! You’re an adult now, for crying out loud – you’re having a baby!

I’m starting to get it now, but I was clueless at the time.

 

I had planned to bless the friends we lived with by making meals, helping set up the nursery, shoveling snow, and helping out in other ways. But we were all so scattered and stretched that coordination was a struggle.

When Ben and I went outside to shovel snow, our friend had already finished clearing most of it. When I planned to cook dinner, we struggled to find a night we’d all be home. When we offered to help paint the nursery, our friends had it under control.

I found myself completely unable to bless these friends in return. Not wanting to be a burden, I subconsciously started trying to make myself disappear. I literally tiptoed around the house at times. In trying to be accommodating and likeable, I sometimes strained my voice without realizing it, making it high pitched and, ultimately, irritating.

Without even realizing it, I squashed myself in hopes of pleasing others.

 

Meanwhile, I sought to find some sort of regularity amidst the chaos and thought writing would be my steady labor. When a desk emerged from beneath piles of belongings in what would one day be the nursery, I had the perfect writing spot. That’s when I wrote the January 14th blog post.

Days later, my computer crashed. I spent an entire week on the phone with technical repair services. As soon as my computer started working again, it was time to move everything – including the desk – out of the baby’s room.

My next writing spot was the dining room table, which shared an open space with the living room area. I listened to instrumental music on my iPod to drown out the noise of television and conversation, and I cleared the table before dinner each night.

Within a week, I came home to a table covered with glasses and china from the kitchen hutch that had just been posted on Craigslist.

So I tried writing at a nearby coffee shop, which, as it turned out, had no outlets for customers. My computer battery lasts all of two minutes, so I flitted between other various coffee and tea shops, seeking a steady writing space.

A cute cafe with at least some outlets!

A cute cafe with at least some outlets!

The cost of coffee adds up though, particularly when your income is nonexistent. So coffee gradually became reserved for internet time devoted to job searching. By that time, I was so worn out I didn’t have words to capture anyways.

Hence the eight month hiatus from blogging, accompanied by a few emotional meltdowns.

Small Town America

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31 Days Not According to PlanDuring my time out west, I became smitten with small town America.

Plenty of small towns populate the East Coast, but I’d never experienced artistic living, communal approaches, and buying local like I did in Portland. I knew this would be one of the aspects I missed most.

My infatuation with small towns began with the Portland neighborhood we lived in, which struck me as more a town than a neighborhood.

Sellwood’s main street consists of a local grocery store, a library, a bakery, and numerous coffee shops. The street is lined with boutique stores and restaurants, including our favorite Italian bistro, Portofino.

Grand-Central-Bakery Portofino

A bright red caboose serves as a neighborhood landmark – once a bookstore, now a tea shop. And a well-maintained bike path connects the neighborhood as it goes by parks, a small fairground, and a riverfront dock, eventually leading downtown.

Sellwood's landmark caboose turned into a tea shop.

I loved wandering through the whitewashed rooms of the Homestead Supply Co, where the owner called customers by name while coaching them on how to care for chickens.

You can learn about all kinds of urban homesteading at the Portland Homestead Supply Co. in Sellwood.

Each time we walked by the Cloud Cap Games store, I jumped a little with excitement that I lived in a place with weekly community game nights.

And when I decided to try distressing furniture, I was thankful for the Goodwill outlet around the corner.

I loved living in Sellwood.

 

Then there was the enchanting town of Hood River an hour-and-a-half away. You could find us there every berry and apple picking season, after hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, and when East Coast (or Australian) friends visited us.

Another quaint main street drew us in every time we visited, along with food from area farms, locally made wines, and handmade goods. We took pleasure in supporting this community whenever we could.

A beautiful fall in Hood River Valley.

 

There’s something special about knowing and loving the community you support each time you make a purchase or deliver a service. Even if you’re not supporting people you personally know, you have the opportunity to get to know those people.

Walking and biking on quiet streets from one place to another enlivened the most basic of days. Grocery shopping became a treat when I got to walk to the local New Seasons. I somehow felt healthier and more whole running errands in such a way. Store employees became neighbors, and neighbors became friends.

 

You can imagine my excitement when the first day at our friends’ home in Maryland, we learned of a baker and a butcher around the corner. Not even Sellwood had a butcher!

Life doesn't get more local in Ellicott City than The Breadery. JW Treuth & Sons butcher shop is local and affordable.

Our friends showed us how to walk along a wooded path into downtown Ellicott City, a quaint town founded in 1772. Similar to Sellwood but smaller, Ellicott City’s main street boasts cafés, boutique stores, and local arts and furniture.

Trolley path trail into Ellicott City.

One of my favorite Ellicott City spots was Pure Wine Café, where I met with a friend to write while enjoying a warm red wine and THE BEST brussel sprouts side dish ever (can you believe it – delicious brussel sprouts?).

Ellicott City's quaint main street.

The first time I walked to The Breadery, the girl working there encouraged me to try samples and told me about ordering custom baskets of fresh, regional food from Friends & Farms. When she heard I was looking for work, she suggested talking to Jay, owner of the Country Corner Store two doors up the road. Apparently Jay knows everyone in the area.

If we could have bought a nearby house right then, I think we would have. But we knew better than to make firm plans at that point. We continued waiting and praying and applying for jobs.

31 Days Not According to Plan

Pondering Plans

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31 Days Not According to Plan

Here are some words to ponder while I unpack boxes. They are from people of all walks of life – some famous, some friends, some fictional, some from book titles I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve read. I’m interested to hear your responses.

There’s a plan.  If you’re willing to fight it hard enough, you can make it detour for a while, but you’re still going to end up wherever God wants you to be.

– the movie October Sky

Stop for just a second, walk outside, and look at the moon. And then take a deep breath and find peace in knowing that the One who created that moon specifically for this night also has a plan for each and every second of your day. So relax! You’re not in control, you never will be, so just sit back and enjoy the ride!

– Rachel Morgan, a friend

Life happens while you’re busy making other plans.

– John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

We have to stand in the complexity of all that God is working on, not just in the simple part we can see for ourselves.  We must relinquish our arrogance and presumption that we have figured out God’s plan.

– Nicole Johnson, Keeping a Princess Heart In a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

– Woody Allen

[God] has only one will for your life, and it’s good, acceptable, and perfect. There is no backup plan…The bottom line of the backup plan is that we still love ourselves and what we want too much…As we fight to hold on to the last vestiges of our own personal desires, we devise Plan B just in case God doesn’t fulfill the desires of our hearts. But we really must get over ourselves.

– Holly Virden & Michelle McKinney Hammond, If Singleness Is a Gift, What’s the Return Policy?

You just gotta live. Stop planning your moves. Let ‘em happen. You might be surprised.

– the movie Little Black Book

Wow isn’t it amazing how when we let the Lord lead He already has a plan for us and we can just relax and enjoy the ride or sometimes just hold on while He does amazing works through us?

– a missionary friend in Sudan

The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it His presence and His promise.

– Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God

When God starts to move, the best we can hope to do is go along for the ride. All man-made plans and strategies become futile and worthless, and are swept away like an umbrella in a mighty hurricane… If we truly claim to follow Jesus then we must do so without imposing any conditions or self-made plans.

– Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (a man persecuted, imprisoned, and testifying to God’s miracle working power)

31 Days Not According to Plan

Pod Parties

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31 Days Not According to PlanPortland friends gathered in the kitchen at our farewell party to hear the latest update. The past few months had been a roller coaster ride no one could keep up with. I think even these free-spirited friends living in “the city where young people go to retire” were starting to think we were a little crazy.

“So, we don’t know what we’re doing anymore,” we explained. “But we know we’re leaving in three weeks. And we have friends in Baltimore who said we could live with them for three months.”

The obvious next question:  who wants to help us pack our pod?

the pod

Countless friends have helped us move over the past decade. I am immensely thankful to each and every one of them – from college guys who helped in a frenzy without boxes to a high school friend I hadn’t seen in eight years. Thank you.

Three contributions stand out in all the moves I’ve made:

  • the enormous moving truck a friend provided for no cost
  • the work interns who barely knew me but showed up when hardly anyone else did
  • the chef-turned-Alaskan-fisherman-turned-contractor neighbor in Portland who also happened to have experience as a professional mover

Our unparalleled neighbor – the one with the professional moving experience – became one of our closest friends in Portland almost the moment he moved in. (I cannot BELIEVE I don’t have a picture of him to feature here.)

There was a point when I used a chocolate fountain to draw neighbors out because I couldn’t seem to meet them otherwise. Not this neighbor – he showed up with plates of food before I could even make him a welcome meal.

We knew we’d be fast friends when this bearded, lumberjack-of-a-man knocked on our door to ecstatically tell us his little boy had just pooped in the toilet.

Both our families hated the thought of parting.

When moving day came, our neighbor strategically positioned every item as our army of help carried it out. He balanced the weight to prevent tipping, stacked to avert shifting, and filled gaps with what became endearingly known as “chatter.”

pod tetris

I had heart palpitations trying to keep up with the assembly line of orders for what to bring next.

I planned to write down everything I learned and maybe even write a blog post to share with others. In all the shuffle though, I never did get around to it.

All I remember is that next time, when the loading finishes, I want to have cleaning supplies, plates for the post-moving pizza party, and somewhere to sleep. (Thankfully, other generous friends welcomed us into their home as last-minute guests that night.)

Ten months later…TODAY!!!…we are finally unpacking our pod!!

Drumroll!!A whole new crew of friends and yet-to-be friends will help us set up in our beautiful Connecticut home.

Experienced friends have told us it will be like Christmas as we pull out one forgotten item after another from the pod.

After months of inventorying items I really-could-use-right-now, I wasn’t convinced. But when the pod arrived yesterday, I couldn’t contain myself. I kept thinking, our whole house is packed up in that little box?!

I took pictures of it y’all – and not just for the blog. That pod should have had a big red bow around it.

It wasn’t the items inside that excited me. It was the realization that we had finally landed. That I was going to be able to set up a home. That we had neighbors to get to know again.

It felt like one of the biggest gifts ever in a package smaller than I ever would have imagined could contain it.

And thanks to our Portland neighbor, not even the loose remote control moved during transit.

Not even the fan remote shifted.

Be Still & Know

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31 Days Not According to Plan

Our list of desires isn’t all that shaped our decisions. In fact, it was something brand new added to the mix. And it felt a bit like playing with fire.

When it’s been thoroughly drilled into you to let go of your agenda and submit to Christ, a list of personal desires is not what you want guiding you. But in this specific situation, the Lord seemed to have led my husband and me into a wide open space where we could determine our next steps.

I held to the list loosely. As long as God left a hazy path before us though, I would trust that moving toward fulfilling those desires was not against His will.

I continued to also turn to a collection of verses I meditate on whenever making substantial decisions. I compiled the verses in 2005 when trying to discern the Lord’s leading on whether to stay at a food bank job I loved or leave to serve in Southeast Asia for a year.

compilation of Bible verses for decision making

I prefer to read this compilation of Scriptures as though having a conversation with the Lord:

“Search me O God and know my heart…know my anxious thoughts (Ps. 139:23). O Lord, you have searched me and You know me (Ps. 139:9). You perceive my thoughts from afar (Ps. 139:2). For You formed my inmost being (Ps. 139:13)…The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me, the Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands (Ps. 138:8). He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6). I will praise You for Your lovingkindness and Your truth and faithfulness (Ps. 138:2).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Prov. 3:5-6). ‘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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you’ (Jer. 29:11-14). A still, small voice – a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12).

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold…On God my salvation and my glory rest;…my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, o people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us (Ps. 62:5-8). How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you…your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ (Is. 30:19-21). If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to Him (James 1:5).

“Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10). He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works (Ps. 33:15). Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). And my God shall supply all your need according to His glorious riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:4-7). My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him…Trust in Him at all times, o people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is a refuge for us (Ps. 62:5, 8).

“Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (Jn. 16:24). Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You (Ps. 143:8).

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Prov. 19:21). I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will guide you with My eye (Ps. 32:18). Lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139:24). The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Ps. 23:1). He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Ps. 23:4). My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps. 23:5-6).”

31 Days Not According to Plan

Making a List

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31 Days Not According to PlanMy husband and I stared at each other over the thick, wood table that remained as an anchor point in our barren home.

Our plan to start a church in Baltimore had disintegrated as quickly as it had appeared. Its collapse was particularly distressing because it had seemed orchestrated by God and dropped in our laps after five years of essentially wandering in the desert.

The plan to start a church had begun with a text message from a friend. The message asked if my husband “might possibly be open” to starting a church together in Baltimore.

Perhaps the “might possibly” or being asked in a text message should have tipped us off to the final outcome. But Baltimore was the only place we could imagine living in the U.S. and the door to serving abroad (which we’d discussed since dating) had just closed.

A personal invitation to help start a cross-cultural church in inner city Baltimore seemed like a gift from God. The fact that everything had come together without any effort on our part made it seem that much more divinely orchestrated.

Even so, we didn’t jump in blindly. We asked plenty of questions over a three month period filled with Skype conversations. Our friend informed us he didn’t want to make any decisions without our involvement – not about location, structure, membership, anything.

We eventually became so convinced this was God’s leading that even when funding was withdrawn, we believed everything would work out. When we told our friend we still planned to move to Baltimore, he was shocked.

A few weeks later, he emailed to tell us he had procured a salary for himself from another church. He suddenly had 35 people ready to start the new church in a particular location.

“But what are you going to do?” he asked. “And what are you planning for your trip to Baltimore? What do you hope to accomplish during your visit?”

Trip? Visit? Our house was half packed. We’d sold most of our furniture on Craigslist. And we were being asked what the purpose of our visit was.

During a three hour follow-up conversation, our friend tried to convince us he wasn’t moving forward without us. Yet he had never mentioned us to the church now providing funding.

We understood he had probably panicked when the original funding was withdrawn. But we felt betrayed and unable to move forward with what now seemed like a very unwise plan.

After the news sank in, my husband and I regrouped at that same thick, wooden table surrounded by cardboard boxes.

We were open to where God would lead from here, but we needed a direction to point in. At a mentor’s recommendation, we wrote a list of what we want in life.

direction for life

We then let that list inform our upcoming decisions. Unless God steered us otherwise, we would move toward these desires one day being fulfilled.

Given that our house was mostly packed up, Baltimore friends had offered us a place to live, and we ultimately wanted to live near family back on the East Coast, we decided to move forward with relocating to Baltimore.

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