April 30, 2012

The Verses Project

It is with great JOY that I can direct you to the official launch of 'The Verses Project' website!

Some great friends of ours, along with my husband and I, have been writing music for the past year or so using verses straight from the Bible in order to help us and others memorize the Word of God and store it up in our hearts and minds.

What has resulted is an amazingly beautiful and dynamic collection of songs that have not only encouraged me to know and memorize more scripture, but are constantly being sung from the backseat by my children as well.

It is a breathtaking thing, hearing the Word of God being sung to you by your own children.

This has been such a huge blessing to me, and I hope and pray that it will be to you all as well!!

Each week, a new song will be posted that you can listen to on the site or download for FREE.  You can also sign up for the mailing list and be notified each week when a new song (or two) is posted.  Spread the word and start making some playlists for your home or the car or the gym or WHEREVER!   You will be amazed at how these verses will stick with you and comfort or strengthen you in the moments when you need them most.

Huge thanks to Joel Limpic, Ryan Gikas, my husband Chris Clark, Dustin Ragland, Jamie Cochran, and all the others who have helped organize and contribute to this effort.  Also, a big thanks to Jesse Owen and Kyle Turman for the gorgeous website!

Visit the site here and tell your friends to check it out as well!  :)

April 25, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Six.

'The Shaking'

Okay. So.  I'll try to speed this up a bit, for fear of boring you all to tears.  haha.  I don't think I even realized how much stuff I wanted to write out so that I could remember it all!!!  Thanks for bearing with me.  :)


At this point in the story, we had sold our house but still had no idea where we were meant to go next.  It was all that we could do to keep functioning in this state of complete unknown.  Chris had a hard time staying motivated in his paint business because... would he even own this company in a few month's time?  How far out should he book painting gigs or DJ gigs?  Up through July?  But what if he started turning down work past that point but then we didn't end up leaving the state?  What then?  Oh, we were frazzled!  But we were still clinging to our faith that God would not let us down.  We KNEW He would come through, and we knew that He would do so at the perfect moment.  He does not delay.  He never shows up late.

So, we waited.

On November 18th, Chris had another significant dream.  (I will forever and ALWAYS believe that God still speaks to us through dreams and visions after all of this, you guys.  Just wait!!)  He had a dream that he and my immediate family were walking through a house.  In the dream, Chris said he just knew it was our new house.  He and my oldest brother, Jared, walked over to inspect the fireplace.  As they peered into the fireplace, they noticed something wasn't quite right.  My brother Jared started telling Chris that the fireplace was inoperable.  He was saying that the fireplace seemed to be made out of material that would just burn up if you tried to light a fire.  Chris said in the dream it looked like the inside of the fireplace was made out of wood or cardboard.  As they were checking things out in there, the rest of my family started freaking out because they looked out the windows of the house (he said there was a big window on one wall in the dream) and they saw a tornado coming right for the house.  In the dream, Chris felt calm, and he knew that the tornado was not going to hit the house.  He kept telling my family that it was okay and that the winds were going to shift, but he led them all down to the tornado shelter so that they would feel more safe.  Then he woke up.

The very same night that Chris had that dream, an out-of-control fire flared up outside of the city of Reno, and my brother Jared's neighborhood was asked to evacuate.  At the last minute, the 80 mph winds driving the fire shifted, and his neighborhood was spared.

We couldn't believe it, because it seemed to have such similarities to the dream Chris had had that very same night... the fireplace and my brother Jared and the winds shifting... But what we didn't realize was that the dream would become even MORE incredibly significant in the months to follow...


December came and went and we spent Christmas out at my parent's house in Southern Utah.  We had tentatively planned to make a quick trip over to Reno while we were there, just to scope things out, but the trip didn't end up happening due to our time being cut short out there when Chris was asked to go to Atlanta, Georgia to play with the Charlie Hall Band for the 'Passion 2012' conference.

God seemed to be presenting more and more opportunities for Chris to pursue music in Oklahoma, which was very significant.  The timing of it all felt like a door swinging wide open here in OKC, while the doors we'd pushed on out in Reno were gently closing shut.

More than that, it seemed that both of us had an increasing desire to remain in the community that had become so incredibly important to us over the past six and a half years.  The more we weighed our options to leave Oklahoma, the more we began to grieve the thought of leaving our church family here. God seemed to be moving in big ways within our congregation, and He was using dreams and visions with others as well.  A lot of people in the church (including chris) had been having dreams about earthquakes in the sanctuary.  Then, one evening when our pastors were praying for Chris and I for direction and guidance, our pastor's wife physically felt the ground under our feet rolling, like a large earthquake.  None of us felt it, but she said the ground under her was moving like crazy!  We felt like God might be saying we were meant to be a part of what He was doing collectively at Bridgeway Church.  A few days later, Oklahoma was rocked with the largest earthquakes ever recorded here.  I think sometimes God uses the physical to demonstrate what is happening spiritually.... Things were shaking, and we didn't want to miss out on it all!

A couple of weeks after all the shaking, Chris had a dream about three owls sitting on a power line out in our backyard.  In the dream the owls were singing "Hebrews twelve and thirteen" over and over again.  Turns out, in Hebrews 12, the author writes about a "kingdom that cannot be shaken"... reminding us that this earth is temporary, but the things of God are eternal.  Verses 25-29 say:

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Earthquakes and fires and tornadoes, oh my!

God was up to something big.

 We didn't realize it at the time, but He was beginning to "connect all of the dots".  He had the perfect place already carved out for us.  A place that we couldn't have even come up with in our wildest dreams.  It was there, waiting in the wings, and we had no clue that we were only moments away from stumbling upon it and finally finding our way home.

April 17, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Five.

"Home Sweet Home"

At this point in the story, it was early November of 2011. As I was praying and praying about possibly moving back to Reno, I started to discern something inside of my heart that caused me to pause. The more Chris and I talked about Reno and what areas we could look at to live in/move to, the more we butted heads. He was thinking to move closer to the center of town, and I was feeling adamant about moving back out towards the side of town that I grew up in, which is pretty far from the city of Reno itself. I noticed that I would almost start to get angry when Chris wouldn't agree that we should move back out towards where I spent my life as a little girl. I even found myself searching on real estate sites & Zillow.com for my childhood house and the surrounding neighborhoods, and I kept saying to Chris, "I just want to move back to Callahan Ranch!!" (that was the name of my old neighborhood.)

Red flag.

Something wasn't quite right here, and it took a few months before I could even decipher what could possibly be going on in my head.

I started to realize that my restless heart was hungry for more than just something new.

My restless heart was hungry for home.

Now, maybe it is just me, but I have found this to be the most difficult part of growing up and becoming an adult. There comes a point, after the days of reckless youth (when you couldn't wait to flee the nest), when all you want to do is go back. You flap around for a while out on your own until you start to realize that your arms are tired and the worms tasted better in the dirt back home, and you go searching for the nest you once knew.

But you can't go back.

It's not natural or healthy or good for anyone to go backwards- being beak fed your worms and playing video games in your parent's basement until you're suddenly 38 and probably balding. You've got to start building your own nest... you've got to let go of the past... you've got to grow up and start gathering some sticks.

For me, this is when things started to shift. It was almost like the second that I uncovered where my deepest longings were truly coming from, EVERYTHING was back up in the air again. The need to get back out to Reno as soon as possible instantly stopped pounding in my ears and I felt... lost. I knew now that God was unearthing a part of my heart that needed healing, and to be honest, I just didn't know if I had the strength it would take to allow it. I was SO weary at this point from all of the questions and the unknowns and the excitement and the tension. I felt like a weary traveler who had been walking for miles and miles only to realize that I had been doing a complete circle and was standing back on my own welcome mat.

Now what? Now where? If not there... WHERE, Lord?!?!!

I felt a bit angry. I felt a bit hurt. I mean, all I had wanted from the very beginning was to go where God wanted me to go, you know? That was really my desire. I just wanted to BE where He wanted me to BE. Why wasn't He honoring that heart cry of mine?? Why was I right back where I started... full of longing and empty of direction?

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was actually EXACTLY where God wanted me to be. He was so good to show me where I was broken. He was so kind to show me where this longing was coming from before I forced my way back home and then realized once I got there that I was still unsatisfied... still swelled up with longing... because there is more to home than familiar scenery! The sweetest memories of my whole life are from the piece of land my parents raised us on. I used to spend hours on the trampoline looking at the mountains under the stars and I know for a fact that God spoke to me there when I was little and He did it through the beauty of His creation. This whole time I had been longing for that sense of home, and now God was telling me clearly:

"Emery Josephine, I am your home."

Only He can satisfy the deepest longings for home in our hearts. HE is our home. He is our home. HE is our home!! And on this earth, there will always be a longing for home that can not be completely fulfilled on this side of eternity. It's this longing for home that pulls us in to Him. It's this longing that keeps us seeking after Him like children who need their father.

The beauty in all of this is that if we will just run to HIM to satisfy us, despising the things that lie to us and tell us that they can satisfy us instead... a new house, a new car, a new wife, a faster boat, a new social media time suck... then He WILL prove Himself to be enough for us- whether we find ourselves in a dark prison cell or a cookie cutter house buried deep in the jungles of suburbia or on the wind swept plains of Oooooooklahoma! He is our home and He is everywhere.

My heart began to slowly heal. I started believing that God was enough and could satisfy every longing my heart could dream up, just by being Who He Is.

Suddenly, the book of Nehemiah took on a whole new, beautiful light. In the book of Nehemiah, the people rallied together to rebuild the walls of their broken down home town. But the way they did it was breathtaking. Each family was in charge of repairing just the section of the wall that was in front of their own house. Everyone took their own section of the wall, and in 52 DAYS the entire wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt, after it had been in ruins for over 150 years. Isn't that awe inspiring? It was a team effort, led by the heart of a man who had been stirred by God, and the people were faithful to do the work that was set directly in front of them. I started to think of Nehemiah as a picture of the Church, the global Church, caring for the communities they had been planted in, until the city of God was rebuilt and restored. And I started to ask God what my part in that rebuilding would be... what was right in front of me that He might be calling me to.

But the most stunning part of when I started to think back on all the things God had been speaking to us up until that point was the pairing of Nehemiah with JOHN 15. John 15 says:

"ABIDE in me, and I will ABIDE in you." (John 15:4)

The Message translation of this verse says it a little differently:

"Live in me. Make your home in ME, just as I do in you."

And, just like that, even though we had just sold our house and had no idea where we were going to end up or what we would be doing or what life was going to look like, I had never felt more at home.

April 16, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Four.

"Dots on a Page"

Shortly after we decided to start getting the house ready to sell, our dearest most darlingest friends, Cameron & Anna Ingalls (and their little boy Asher!) came into to town to stay with us for a few days. They were so supportive and spoke so much life and truth into all that was happening in our crazy journey. On the last day that they were here, Cameron offered to snap some shots of our family of 5, and he was asking us where we would like to have some photos taken... any special place we'd like to capture at that moment in time. Chris and I looked at each other and just knew.

This street.

This place that had transformed us in such a way that we would never be able to live RIGHT NEXT DOOR to someone and not even know them ever again. This place that taught us to be true neighbors and kingdom bringers to the people God has placed tens of feet from our own front door. This street that means more to us than I can even begin to wrap words around, that stings my eyes with tears every time I think about how God is calling us away from it.

Leaving these neighbors will be, hands down, the hardest part of this whole entire process for us.

While we were taking the photos, we both felt a bitter sweetness. We knew these images were going to be forever important to us... a commemoration of what God had done here. It felt very significant, like a stake in the ground.

This was really going to happen, wasn't it?


One weekend after Cam & Anna left, I woke up feeling really burdened with an urgency about... something. It took a couple of hours for me to fully wake up and put my finger on what I was feeling, but I could NOT shake it all morning... like I was going to miss something really important and I needed to figure it out quickly. Later in the morning, I suddenly knew what it was. We needed to talk to the neighbors a couple of houses down from us about buying our house. We didn't see these neighbors very often, but we knew that they had bought another house on the street a few months prior and turned it into a really nice rental property. I told Chris that I felt like we needed to talk to them, like now. Chris said he'd been feeling the same way, and wouldn't you believe it, when he went outside, there they were out in their driveway! This was a rare opportunity. I all but pushed him out of the garage to go talk to them about our house. heh.

As it turns out, they were interested. After a few weeks of going back and forth to figure out all of the details, they told us they wanted to go ahead with the deal.

What this all meant was:
1. We wouldn't have to show the house at all! No signs in the yard! No realtor fees!!
2. They agreed to the price we needed in order to get all of our equity out of the house.
3. They also agreed to let us RENT THE HOUSE through June, when Ezra finished first grade, and then month-to-month if we needed, so that we wouldn't have to move out before we knew where we were meant to end up. (!!!)
4. They wanted Chris to do all of the painting in this house and another house of theirs, which in the long run would allow us to rent the house for even less than we were paying in a mortgage before. We could be saving money!
5. When we finally figured out where we were supposed to go, we would be able to just... go, because we weren't tied down by anything anymore.
6. As we talked back and forth over the contract, we even got to strike up a friendship with these neighbors that we hadn't had in the past!

It was crazy. All of our questions about how to sell the house and what it would all look like were answered in one fell swoop. We could not have dreamed up a better scenario if we'd tried.


During this time I also started doing a bible study at my church on the book of Ezra in the Bible. This book is (obviously) dear to me, seeing as how my eldest son is named Ezra (that's another cool story altogether!), and God had been speaking to us about Nehemiah from the beginning of all of this stirring. What I learned from that study was life-changing... mainly that God really is sovereign and He stirs the hearts of men (even men who don't know Him!) in order to bring his plans to pass. Over and over again in the books of Ezra & Nehemiah, it talks of how God had "stirred the heart" of pagan kings and Israelites - people who loved Him and people who didn't - in order to carry out His will. Crazy, unthinkable stuff happened... all because God stirred someone's heart to answer in a certain way or provide a certain thing. I realized in this study that God writes history in advance, and I don't need to worry about my future or any detail of my life because HE is in control! I also came to believe more and more that God really was stirring my heart, and that I needed to listen to all the tumult I felt inside of me and stop trying to just shut it down all the time.

One night, not long after I started the Ezra study, Chris had fallen asleep out on the couch in our living room. At around 3:00 in the morning, he was woken with a start when he heard a voice, a female voice, coming from near the head of the couch that said, loud and clear, "The time you're spending with Ezra will be very helpful." He sat straight up and peered in the darkness over at that side of the couch. He told me later that he thought I had been standing there, talking... but no one was there.

At first he thought the voice was talking about our son, Ezra. But when he shared the dream with me that next morning, I just knew that it was talking about all the truths I was learning in the study on the Book of Ezra. We were, again, completely blown away. God doesn't really speak this loudly to His children anymore, does He??

Oh yes. He DOES.

Right before he'd been woken up that night, Chris had been having a very realistic dream. He said in the dream he could see my blog. At the top of the blog, in big bold writing, it said "In Hope of A New Day", and there was a picture of my old neighborhood where I'd grown up. (I grew up in a rural area outside of Reno, on a little street called Wintergreen.) It was just a short flash of a dream, and then he had been woken up by that audible voice.

Needless to say, we started to believe that God really does speak in amazing and mysterious ways. All of these things felt like dots on a page, and nothing was quite connecting just yet, but we started to believe without a doubt that they were going to. I tried to write down every dream and situation that felt significant, so that I wouldn't forget.

Chris told me one day shortly after he had that dream that He felt like He needed to repent for always saying "If we're going to ever move again, God is going to have to speak to me from a burning bush!" He started realizing that he had been putting parameters and boundaries around the way he thought things should happen. He even apologized to me, saying he never meant to make me feel like he was being stubborn or hard-hearted towards God and wasn't hearing my heart and my desire for newness. I thanked him for his sincere and humble apology, and didn't think much more of it until I went to pick up Myer from his school a couple of days later and found this sitting on top of his Lightning McQueen backpack:

I knew exactly what it was when I saw it, but I turned to Myer and said, totally exasperated, "What IS this, buddy?"

One of his teachers who was walking by stopped, looked right at me, smiled, and said, "Why, it's a burning bush!!"

I could not stop laughing. I texted this picture to Chris as soon as I got in my car.

Apparently, God also has a sense of humor.


April 10, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Three.

"Wise Council"

As we started to talk about and process a potential move back to Reno, there were a lot of mixed emotions floating around. One day I would feel completely excited about it... the mountains, the old friends, the family, the less intense weather... and the very next day I would feel nothing but fear and uncertainty. I mean, how exactly does one go back, you know? Back to a place that knew you ten years ago, and has its own view of who you are, when you are no longer that same person? It felt a little bit like a butterfly trying to wedge its way back into its old cocoon. The thought of it felt a little confining.

Through all of these emotions and doubts, though, I kept telling God that I would go WHEREVER He wanted to send me. Even if going back home would be uncomfortable in some ways, I would go without hesitation if I felt Him leading us there. It became my daily mantra: "I will go wherever You want us to go, Lord. Reno or Alaska or the Czech Republic or Timbuktu!! You lead, I follow." It was a really tense time, because there were a bajillion unknowns coupled with a complete willingness, and only a crumb or two of clarity. That combination made for some frazzled emotions, let me tell you. Most days I felt like my head and my heart were just a loud mass of noise, and I couldn't find the mute button. I couldn't turn off the questions that were swirling around in my brain all day long.

Chris was still dreaming like crazy during all of this. He had some dreams about Lake Tahoe (which is just outside of Reno) and his old high school, but none of them brought any clarity, just more and more questions. We met with our friends Brad & Bethany to process and pray through all of this stirring we were feeling, and they encouraged us to run to God with our desires and longings, and to start pushing on doors like kids who were exploring a big old house for the first time. This advice helped us tremendously throughout this entire season. God can handle our asking and knocking and exploring!! He is faithful to lead us in the direction He has mapped out for us if we will just keep listening for His voice. He will not let our feet slip or stray to the right or the left if we are truly seeking after His heart. He is a good shepherd who gently guides His flock.

We really wanted to explore all the things that we felt God might be speaking, so Chris started touching base with paint companies and churches in the Reno area that we knew of or had contact with a decade before. This was one way of "pushing on doors" out there to see if anything would open to us. We continued to meet with friends and people in our community that we trust in order to pray & truthfully process what we were feeling.

We cast some hooks out into the water, and then we waited.

One Sunday at church, Chris ended up talking with a couple (our friend Cordell's parents) who had just moved to Oklahoma City after a similar whirlwind experience of feeling like God was calling them somewhere new. They had some really great advice and words of wisdom for us that had helped them take the leap of faith and follow God's leading even though it felt scary and uncertain. They said that throughout the whole process, it was like they would take a tiny step towards something in faith, and God would meet them there with confirmation. Then they would feel led to take another little scary step out of their comfort zone, and God would meet them there with blessing and confirmation again. Again and again and again, baby step after baby step, God led them all the way to Oklahoma City. We started to pray that God would do the same thing for us.

Late in September of last year, Chris woke up super early one morning and couldn't go back to sleep. He stumbled out to the kitchen table to pray and read his Bible while the house was still quiet. As He was praying, He started to feel like we were supposed to put the house on the market, as a first step of faith.

When I woke up later that morning, Chris told me what he had felt like God was asking him, and I completely agreed. I had been feeling the exact same thing for a couple of days prior.

So. It was time to sell our precious little house, where all three of our children had grown from babies into boys. The only house that any of them had ever known... the house where we had become a family. The thought of it was completely frightening, but underneath the fear and the questions there was a solid sense of peace. I knew that God was asking us to take this step of faith, and I also knew that He would be faithful to protect us in it. I tried not to cling to the "who what when where whys?" and instead I tried to cling to God in trust. It was hard.

I mean... where would we live if the house sold right away? How would we show this tiny house to potential buyers with three boys who were like tiny tornadoes of destruction and still needed to nap throughout the day? Would we have to move into an apartment nearby so Ezra could finish out the school year? What if we still had no idea where we were supposed to move when the house sold? WOULD the house sell? Would we be able to buy another house somewhere else- in a different state- where the cost of housing is so much more? Would we rent? Was Chris supposed to switch vocations in the midst of all of this? Should he start applying for random jobs in Reno or here in Oklahoma or elsewhere, or should he continue painting? Would he be able to transfer his painting business to a different state, a different economy? Was he even supposed to?

HOW THE HECK was all of this going to work out?!? I could see NO possible way. I felt completely helpless to figure it all out.

We agreed that morning to take the leap of faith, despite the screaming questions. We started getting the house ready to sell. And what happened next was more perfect than anything we could have ever "schemed up" or "mapped out" on our own. The God of the Impossible came through and made a perfect way.

April 6, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Two.

"The Land of our Fathers"

A few days before Chris and I talked about moving, we had taken a trip up to Kansas City to meet up with my friend Harmony and her sweet little family. Harmony gave me a book for my birthday called '1000 Gifts' by Ann Voskamp. I didn't know it at the time, but this book would be like a lifeboat in the crazy storm that was ahead. It helped me anchor my longings to God, and it kept me focused on being thankful and grateful for every single moment, even when I didn't know what the "plan" was going to be. I started to count & document the things that I was thankful for throughout my days. It was (and continues to be) a completely life changing exercise. It helped me to stop grumbling and be able to ask for new things without despising the old things, if that makes any sense.

I read that book THREE TIMES in five months... it was that good. ha!

As my eyes started to open to the God who is everywhere and all around me at every moment of every day, I started to trust Him more. And as I was able to start trusting Him more, things started getting really exciting. We started to hear God speaking to us in ways we never imagined He would. Chris started having really significant dreams almost every night. Lots of the dreams were about his work truck... selling it, trading it in, walking away from it and knowing he couldn't go back to it, watching it get swept up and washed away in a raging river...

The thing you need to know about my husband is that he is a passionate and talented musician, who, for the last 10 years, has been "Clark Kent-ing" as a Painting Contractor. He labors faithfully with his hands and he never grumbles and all the while, there is this gift inside of him that has purpose and destiny written all over it. For 10 years, I have been praying that God would swoop him up and make all of his wildest dreams come true.

On the morning of September 20th, I was driving around in my car after I had dropped Myer off at school. I was listening to a song by The Robbie Seay Band called "New Day" (OF ALL THINGS) and the lyrics were echoing everything that was in my heart. I was singing at the top of my lungs. I hadn't heard the song in a very long time, and the only reason I had pulled it out again that morning was because Myer saw the CD in the car and asked politely demanded that I put "the black one" in.

As I was singing along, I suddenly felt this urgency to pray for my husband. I wasn't quite sure what to pray, so as I drove I just started praying that God would make all of the dreams in Chris' heart come true. But this time, something different happened as I was praying those words. This time, I heard in my spirit, clear as day, a resounding "YES". And not just a quiet, timid little "yes", but a bold and loud and unexpected "YES!!" that reverberated in me and sent chills up and down my whole body and instantly filled my eyes with so many tears that I had to pull off the road because I could not see. I wept and I prayed and I was in complete shock and awe. I felt like God was telling me that he was going to speak to my husband that very day.

I was physically shaking when I called Chris. I had completely forgotten it, but he was going to a conference that day- a leadership conference for local businessmen. Chris had felt very strongly that he needed to sign up and attend this event. He had NO idea at the time why he was signing up for this thing, but he really felt like God had asked him to. When I called him, it was just getting ready to start. I quickly told him I loved him and felt like God wanted to speak to him today. He said he had been feeling the exact same thing, and we hung up.

He sent me a picture later in the morning of the bulletin they handed him when he walked in the door. At the very bottom, the words:

Get ready. It's a new day.

I kept praying all morning long and I couldn't wipe the giddy smile off of my face. I anxiously awaited a phone call from Chris to find out how the day had gone.

Later that afternoon, he called. He was on his way home and he was talking so fast and sporadically, I had a hard time following everything he was saying. He was excited and felt like God had spoken to him about two things specifically. The first thing was the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The second thing was the book of John, chapter 15.

Now, this next part may sound totally crazy, and even I still have a hard time believing it, but just bear with me here for a moment. As Chris was talking to me on the phone, I was kind of pacing around the house, listening and feeling really excited. Without even realizing what I was doing or WHY I was doing it, I found myself digging around under our bed, with the phone still pushed up to my ear. I reached under there and pulled out this giant cardboard box that has been under there for YEARS, and that I have never gotten out before. I sat on the floor by our bed, still listening to Chris talk about the conference, and I opened the box. It is full of all of my old journals from the past 12 years of my life. On the very top was a bright red spiral bound notebook from 2005. I pulled it out and set it in my lap.

Now, mind you, I still didn't really have any conscious idea of what I was doing. I was just "going through the motions" and listening to Chris. I opened up the journal that I had set in my lap. The page that it fell open to was a synopsis, in my own handwriting, of the story of Ezra & Nehemiah, and at the very top of it all I had written "John 15".

Needless to say, I was speechless. I had mindlessly pulled out a journal that I hadn't seen in years and opened it right to a page that had Nehemiah and John 15 written on it, AS my husband was telling me God spoke to him about Nehemiah and John 15. Uhh... whaaaaaaat? I told Chris what had happened and we were both... just... in shock. He came home and we talked about all the crazy things that had happened that day.

He was telling me how Nehemiah had been called back to "the land of his fathers" to help rebuild the city that was in ruins. As he heard the speaker talk about all of this, Chris couldn't get one place off of his mind... one of the places that was hit the hardest when the economy started to tank back in 2008... a place that has some of the highest unemployment & foreclosure rates in the entire country.

The city where we grew up.

The literal "land of our fathers".

Reno, Nevada....

April 2, 2012

In Hope of A New Day: Chapter One.

"The Longing"

There are times in life when it feels like everything in you is being stirred up, heart soul and spirit, like a big pot of stew on the stove. Have you ever experienced this? Your inner person all a'tumble? It can happen suddenly or gradually, but the churning seems to come from somewhere beyond your control, and, try as you might, you just can't get it to bed back down again.

I am slowly beginning to learn that, in times like these, there really are only two options:

1. Trust the momentum and follow it, or

2. Fight it until you're bone-tired, and are swept up in it all the same.

This has been just such a season for us. And somewhere along the way there came a moment when both Chris and I made that unnerving decision to follow the current rather than fight it, which, I believe, has made all the difference.

It all started about 9 months ago, around my birthday last year, the feeling that I just couldn't breathe this air anymore. I was beginning to resent every lung full, and I was exhaling nothing but discontent. I sat down and wrote this blog. Oklahoma was having the hottest Summer ever recorded in ANY of the 50 United States... meaning, there had never been anywhere in this country that had ever been that hot for that long ever... and I was completely done. Baked. Cooked. Burnt.

I crumbled.

I poured it all out to my husband one night on the couch. The kids were tucked away in their beds and I just... broke. The stirring inside of me had been intense for quite some time, even from the year before, when I did not know if the third child growing inside of me was a girl or a boy and I had chosen the girl's name of Dagny, which means "New Day". I longed for it and I longed for her and I knew that the Lord had said "the time is yet to come" when Truman was born and my heart overflowed with all these bright flashing sons.

Even then I had tried to bottle up the longing. But on the couch that night, I finally reached the point where I just couldn't fight it anymore. It was too strong and I was too weak. At the time, I had believed that this longing in me was a bad thing... the result of an ungrateful heart. Instead of trusting the God of the Universe with it, I had been trying to shut it down, thinking it was the "holy" thing to do.

But that's the tricky thing about longing, isn't it? It is only as holy as it is submitted. As soon as I grip my fingers around it and try to force it into existence, it becomes my enemy. It becomes my god. It becomes what I live for. But if I can really say, "God, I desire this, but I desire You even more!", then GOD remains my God. He remains what I live for.

It is a dangerous can of worms to open, this longing and desire, because it makes you vulnerable to the possibility of disappointment and grief if those longings go unmet. But on the other hand, to never open it up or listen to it at all is a different grief altogether- one heavy with regret and the feeling of never having truly lived. And I think, at the end of the day, I'd rather be able to say that I had lived vulnerably, instead of questioning if I had ever even really been alive at all.

That night, I opened up the treacherous can. I told Chris what I was longing for. I told God what I was longing for. A new place, a new start, a new season. New air! A new day. It felt SO good to get it all out. We had talked casually about the future before... about how this never felt like a permanent home for us, but we had never felt released to really consider other options. Chris had been known to say, "If we are going to move again, God is going to have to speak to me from a burning bush!" (Little did we know....... more about that later!)

We have a lot invested here in this neighborhood, in this town. Chris owns his own thriving small business. We are surrounded on all sides by a community of dear friends and neighbors who are only steps away in times of need. It would be no easy thing to consider uprooting from all that God has done for us in the past six years we've spent here. This dangerous longing of mine was going to change everything. Even as the words left my lips, I felt afraid. Was I really ready to exchange it all and follow the current that was churning me all up inside?

That night we agreed. Chris took the time to ask questions and really hear my heart. We decided we would follow, not fight. We would trust that God was the author of this longing in my heart, and we would trust that He had good plans in and through it. We would take a step of faith and start asking... start "pushing on doors". We talked late into the night about Denver or Reno or San Luis Obispo or Portland or Seattle or somewhere new here in Oklahoma... we allowed ourselves to dream big for the first time in a very long time.

That night was the start of it all, when the floodgates flung wide open, and there would be absolutely no going back.