May 31, 2012

When the Storm Hit.

My family and I went through a traumatic experience a couple of nights ago, and I'm feeling the need to write it out... to get it off of my chest so that I can breathe again.  I honestly feel like I've been walking around in shock for the last 48 hours- like my body is going through the everyday motions while my heart is wandering somewhere very far away.  I've felt completely detached from reality, and strangely lonely.  I need to try and reattach myself so that I can get back to focusing on the monumental task in front of me-- packing up my entire house before Saturday while somehow still caring for and managing my three boys all day long.  I wish my mommy lived nearby.  I feel like I just... need her.  I need someone to help me and take care of me and make me a cup of tea so that I can have a moment to process what happened to us... grapple with the shock... and process the fact that we're moving away in two days... but I just haven't been able to find the time or space to do that yet.  Things have been crazy busy and really really difficult these past couple of weeks.  I've been at the end of myself for days now.  I know writing this story will help me to get it all out and begin to move forward.  NOW is not the time to have my mind and heart wandering off in lonely fields.  I need the whole team here, because this house is not going to move itself!  I've got to do it.  I've got to get it together, or I fear everything is going to fall apart.


On Tuesday afternoon, I picked up Ezra from school and I took all the boys up North to the new house.  My husband was already up there, painting the hallway, so we thought we would do dinner out there and go for a nice stroll around the neighborhood before heading back into the city to put the boys to bed.  Ezra only had a couple days of school left, and needed to catch up on some sleep after the long, tiring weekend we'd had.

It was a beautiful evening.  After dinner, we noticed the sky clouding up a bit.  They had only been calling for a slight chance of rain, last I'd heard, so we checked the radar on our phones.  Storms were building and approaching the new house.  The weather report broke in over the radio and said there was a threat of large hail.  We had no TV at the house, so we were unable to see exactly what was going on, and we felt a little bit in the dark.  We haven't fully moved up to the new house yet, so half of our stuff is there, while the other half, including our TV and storm radio, are down at the old house still.

I felt... uneasy.  With any severe thunderstorms this time of year, tornadoes are possible.  We have a tornado shelter at the new house as well as the old house, so we would have been safe at either place, but I felt my mama-bear instincts kick into gear, and I just wanted to be where we could be by a TV... where we could see & hear exactly what was going on.  Our phone's radar images were not cutting it... half the time they wouldn't refresh and it was hard to tell what was really happening.

What was really happening was this, an extremely rare weather event.  A severe storm was approaching the metro area from the North (up by where we were at the new house), but there was also ANOTHER severe storm approaching the city from the SOUTH.  They were going to meet directly over the area of town where our old house is.

The storms seemed to be moving very slowly (looking back now, maybe the weather app on our phone was not updating properly?) and so we had the decision to make whether to hunker down at the new house, without anyway of knowing what was coming at us, or make a break for the old house, where we could be in our shelter AND have a TV and weather radio on hand.

I made the final call.  We grabbed the boys, threw them in the car, with my husband following us in the truck, and we sped off for our old house, thinking we could beat the storms before they merged together and all hell broke loose.

This is the part of the story where I just want to go back in time and slap myself across the face.  What was I thinking?  I know I just wanted to be back in what was familiar... where I knew I could keep my little ones safe... but the risk in getting them back to their comfort zone was far too great.  Hindsight is 20/20.  The storms had sprung up so suddenly and unexpectedly... our decision was rushed and we made the wrong choice.

We sped back towards the city and as we got down the road a-ways, I could see the blackness of one storm to my left and the blackness of the other to my right.  There was a small patch of blue sky almost directly over our heads, so I kept telling my boys to keep their eyes on that patch of blue and pray.

The blue patch disappeared very quickly. And the the sky turned a putrid green.  I felt sick to my stomach, but tried to keep a brave face on for my boys.  We were about halfway home.

As I stopped at a red light next to a Walgreens, the tornado sirens started going off.  They were very loud, and the boys started to cry and scream.  I was on the phone with my husband... panicking at this point and crying... quietly, so as not to freak the boys out even more.  The hail started to fall on top of the car and it was deafening.  As I started to go again after the light turned green, my husband told me we needed to flip around, do a U-turn, and head back to the Walgreens we had just passed.  His windshield wipers had stopped working and he could not see.  There was no way we were going to make it home.

Completely panicked and shaking, I flipped a U-turn and stopped again at the same red light.  I was still on the phone with Chris and the boys were screaming and I couldn't feel my feet and suddenly I heard my husband, saying something like "Oh no! I'm gonna hit...."


My phone went flying.  I felt hot pain up my back.  His truck had completely locked up and slid into our car.

Now the boys were beyond hysterical.  Looking back, I think Ezra thought it was a tornado that had caused our car to crunch and jolt.  I tried to calm them all down, all the while wondering if a tornado was bearing down on top of us that very second.  I could not see anything.  I had no idea what was going on. The light finally turned green and I floored it into the Walgreens parking lot.  The employees were just shutting up the doors... bolting them against the storm and the hail.

Without even turning off the car, I gathered up the screaming kids, Chris grabbed Truman in his car seat, and we ran for the door.  When we got inside, soaked to the bone, pelted with hail, the employees looked just as scared as we were.

"Is there a TV?!",  I yelled.  "Where is your TV?!"

A young guy pointed to the back office, where another employee was hooking up a mini-DVD player to a tiny little antenna so he could get the local news channel.

Looking back now, this was a total providence from God, this little set-up they had, because a few moments later, all of the power in the store cut out.  It was pitch black.

"Where is your safe-spot?", I asked, nearly out of my mind with fear, clutching Myer and Ezra, who were beside themselves.

A lady led us to a large walk-in refrigerator in the back of the store.  We slunk inside, wet to the bone and shivering. Chris grabbed some towels off of the shelves in the darkened store and wrapped us up in them. In my mind, at this point, I was picturing all of the worst-case scenarios.  I pictured myself shielding my boys with my own skin, praying the earth would swallow us up as a tornado ripped apart everything above and around us.  I pictured the way it would sound in my ears... the screams and the wrenching of it all.  I pictured my life being forever changed, or forever ended.

But for now, everything was calm.  The sound of the hail was deadened by the metal walls of the refrigerator, and all I could see were cases of soda being lit up by the beams of a couple of shaking flashlights.  Chris kept his eye on the battery-powered TV in the office.  There was a tornado on the ground, but it was not near us.  There were reports of 6-inch hailstones.  Straight-line winds of 80mph were knocking over power lines and causing power-flashes around the city.  Car windows and house windows were shattering alarms were going off everywhere.  Lightning strikes were causing fires around the city.

We sat in this state of terrifying unknowns for an hour.  More storms were building behind the first ones, which had met right over our old house and twisted around each other like a tiny hurricane.  Should we head for home before another wave came?  Should we stay put and risk not being able to get underground, where we'd be sure to be safe?  The mama-bear in me was frantic for home.  I felt like a wild animal... I had to get home or I felt I was going to die.  My husband wisely decided we needed to wait a little while longer, to be sure we would be okay, before we tried to move again.

The storms finally started to weaken, and we decided to make a break for it.  We had no idea if we'd even be able to get home due to power lines and trees down everywhere, but it was late and dark and we needed to try.  We loaded up the boys, who had become very calm and quiet over the last hour, and who were being brave little champions, while their mommy felt like jello inside.

We cautiously made our way home.  It was dark, so we couldn't see all the damage, but we caught glimpses of it in our headlights.  All the street lights and traffic lights were out.

We finally made it home.  Our neighborhood looked like the apocalypse.  The streets were covered in branches and leaves.  Car windows and house windows were busted out everywhere.  Our neighbors were taking shelter over at our house because they knew we weren't at home that evening and the shelter was free.  We all began to share our stories of the evening, as the kids huddled together in the living room and we vacuumed up all of the broken glass from the carpets.

Our house took a major pounding.  The wood siding has big holes in it.  Chunks of our fence were broken clean off.  The glass patio table shattered into a million pieces, and the hail stones had broken through both the storm windows and the screen and the interior windows of the boys' room and left debris and rain and broken shards everywhere.

But we were safe.

(the neighbor's house) 

As the adrenaline started to wear off and we finally tucked our boys safely into our bed, I became aware of the shooting back pain I was having.  The whiplash from the collision had done a number on me, but thankfully all of the boys were unharmed.  The pain has been easing up quite a bit over the last 48 hours, and for that I am grateful.

We will never ever attempt to drive in a severe storm ever again.  Lesson learned.  And I beg of all of you fellow Midwesterners to remember this story and follow suit when faced with the same decision.  Stay put!  Hunker down!  It's not worth the risk of being stuck in your car when things get scary.

Now we begin the process of cleaning up and moving to the new house (which, thankfully, had no damage) and trying to heal from the memory of that night.  I have felt very frail the last couple of days, but writing this all out and diving back down into the memory, painful as it may have been, has been helpful.

So, thank you all for listening.  You are good medicine.  :)

May 28, 2012

In Hope of A New Day: Chapter Eleven.

"Two Dreams and a Dress"

On March 19th, my friend Kathryn emailed me to tell me that she had had a dream about me. I haven't seen Kathryn in years, ever since they moved out of the area, so I was very curious as to what it might have been about. This was what she told me:

I wanted to share a dream that I had last week, and hope that you will find it encouraging... Your husband was throwing you a birthday party. Everyone had gathered in an old barn and it was beautifully decorated. You were in yellow.
You stepped out for a moment to the parking area. Everyone began to sing "Happy Birthday" and there were so many people and so many voices that you could clearly hear them from the far side of the parking area. I'm not sure about all of the details, maybe they will mean something to you. I am sure that God wants to let you know that you are loved, cherished, and celebrated by MANY people. I hope that this encourages you!

I thought the dream was very encouraging and sweet and so I told my husband about it later that morning. As I was telling him about the details, he got this frozen look on his face... like he was completely shocked.

TURNS OUT, Chris was planning on throwing me a big 30th birthday/housewarming party in the BARN, which he wanted to decorate to make it look cozy and cool, and he was going to invite all of my friends. He hadn't wanted to tell me about it because, well, technically the house wasn't even OURS yet. But he was already scheming and dreaming up the details because he had so much faith that the house would be ours, thanks to all of the confirmation we'd had from God about the place.

I was completely baffled. God had given a dream to a friend in another part of the country about a birthday party in a barn when my husband had been planning to throw me my 30th birthday party in a barn!?! I felt like it was just more sweetness from God- reassuring me that the house would indeed be ours in a couple of weeks, and that He had big plans to CELEBRATE with us when it was all said and done. We were meant to close on the house on April 2nd, and my birthday wasn't until the beginning of July. We wouldn't have to be out of our old house until the end of June, so this would give us THREE WHOLE MONTHS to slowly move our stuff and work on the house and get everything ready before the big kick-off party in July. Could the timing of all of this worked out any better?

No. No it couldn't have.

If all of this was not amazing enough, a couple of days later I got a text from a friend. It was from my bestest friend from back home, Rebecca. Rebecca lives in Denver now, and I only get to see her once every couple of years. She told me that she had had a dream about me a couple of nights before... probably on the exact same night that Kathryn had had her dream. She said she dreamt that she came to Oklahoma to celebrate with me, but it wasn't clear what we were celebrating. She said she thought it was possibly a birthday/housewarming party, and it was held in some kind of a dark warehouse room, possibly a barn, and it was all decked out with candles and art and rugs. She said that all of my family and friends were there, celebrating my life with me.

You can imagine my reaction to this text. It included a lot of exclamation points, I will tell you that much.

This was just too crazy to be true. But it was true. Absolutely, undeniably TRUE. Two of my friends had pretty much the exact same dream on the same night about a birthday/housewarming party in a BARN, while my husband had been planning a birthday/housewarming party in the barn of the house we were trying to buy. Now there were only two things left to do:

1. Plan this epic party, to celebrate all that God had done.


2. Start looking for a yellow dress. :)

I will admit, that was one of the FIRST things that came to mind after learning about these two dreams and this party. I mean, you all know what makes me tick, right? I love fashion. I don't really know why I am this way, but it has been this way for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, one of my favorite past times was digging through dirty thrift stores (waaaay before they were cool) to find that perfect vintage t-shirt to pair with those perfect vintage men's polyester trousers. I love quirky, interesting, fun, and unique fashion. But I have a veeeery hard time paying more than $7.00 for something. If I can't buy it at a thrift store, I probably won't buy it. I just don't like spending money on myself. At ALL. (This drives my husband a bit batty sometimes, lemme tell you.)

But this... this was a special occasion. I just had to find a yellow dress! And it just had to be... the dress! This may sound really silly, but I started praying right away that God would help me get a new dress for this epic barn party we were going to be throwing for my 30th birthday. (You know...IF we got the house and all...) Every time I was in a thrift store after that, I would scour the racks for THE yellow dress.

I searched for weeks. And I prayed for weeks. But I just couldn't find it! I started telling myself that I was just being silly, and that I should just be practical and plan to wear something that I already had hanging in my closet. It didn't HAVE to be yellow, after all. If I wore a green dress or a blue dress, the party would still be just as amazing and significant... right?


On April 2nd, Chris and I drove up to the escrow office, signed a ma-jillion papers, and left with the keys to our new house.

 It was an emotional experience and an emotional day. After all of those weeks of faith and doubt, elation and despair, dreams and fears... the house was officially OURS!! We drove up there right away and toasted the future with a glass of champagne while watching our boys run like wild things through the yard and back field. Standing there, looking out at our new land, we felt completely humbled and awe-struck. Why had God chosen to bring us on such an amazing journey, and bless us in such a way? Who were we to receive such abundant goodness? Why had God done such a thing for a grumbling Israelite like me?

It felt like holy ground.

It felt like a dream come true.

It felt like a New Day.

Our desire is to freely share this place we've been given, and we're praying that it will be a blessing to others as it has been a blessing to us.  And before we've even moved in, we've already been able to host a military wedding and have a family camp out/worship night with some good friends!

This place is going to be AWESOME.


I started writing out this story on that very day that we closed on the house. I knew from the beginning of all of this that God was asking me to tell this story, to write it all out... to record and preserve the blessings that He had poured out on us so that others might be encouraged as well. A few weeks after I started writing it all down here, I got another surprising email. I had not told a single soul about my secret hunt for the perfect yellow dress, but I had told God. The surprising email was from, my absolute most favoritest online clothing shop in the whole world, and it was letting me know that someone had sent me a giftcard for their store! It was from a friend named Haley, whom I've only met once in real life, but whose photography I have admired from afar for a very long time. She told me she'd discovered a credit on one of her accounts, and wanted to find a way to spend it so she could close it out. She clicked over to Facebook, saw the latest chapter that I'd posted about the house out in the country (which happened to have a modcloth advertisement posted right next to it at the time), just knew I'd need a fun dress for my upcoming country excursions, and bought me a gift card! I was so shocked and I could NOT stop laughing! My yellow dress that I had been hoping and praying for had just arrived in my inbox. (I have yet to find it and order it, but I'm on the lookout!)

I had a moment, after seeing such a seemingly silly little prayer answered in such a way, where I truly believed for the first time in my life, that God... sees me. Me! Emery Josephine Clark. He really does know my heart. He really does know what makes me smile. He really does want to draw that smile out of me and He LOVES to hear me laugh.

And you know what? He sees you too. He knows you. He longs to bless you and pour out His love on you as well. He is the same God. He does not change. He shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35). Anyone who fears Him and believes in Him has bold access to Him. Ask for more! Read His word and ask for His grace to help you obey it! Be attentive to His voice... in your mind, in your dreams, deep down in your gut, in the pages of your Bible, and through the people He has placed around you.

The close of this story is all set to take place on July 13th, when we will dance and celebrate all the things God has done at the party that He Himself has planned. :) This will be EXACTLY one year from the start of this journey, when the restlessness poured out of me and my husband and I started asking for a new day, around the time of my birthday last year.

What a year it has been!!

I keep coming back to that dream Chris had of my blog, with the picture of my old childhood neighborhood at the top and title of "In Hope of a New Day" written bold above it. The more I dig into this story and write it all out, the more powerful that dream of his has become to me. I grew up on a street called Wintergreen. This new house is on a street called Evergreen. And when I first went out to the new property, I couldn't stop remarking about how much it felt like my childhood home. It felt like... home!! Which is what I've realized I was truly longing for this whole time!  God took me on this journey to show me that He is my home, and to strengthen my faith and security in that fact. But then, in His great goodness and mercy, He was kind enough to lead me to a place that truly felt like the home I had been longing for for my family to grow and thrive on all along! Only He could find such a way to take an old longing and turn it into something new... merging my old days with my new days in such a creative and unexpected way.

The God we serve is sovereign over all things.

And so, with tears streaming down my face, I thank Him from the bottom of my heart. And I thank you all as well for reading along and encouraging me as I've recounted this story of the past year of my life. I pray that it will strengthen and encourage you, and that the God of all Hope would begin to fill you afresh with the belief that He is powerful, that He cares for You, and that He will never stop fighting for your heart.

the end.

May 22, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Ten.

'A Dream Come True.  Literally.'

It was now the end of February. We were a little over a month away from closing on the house, and there was quite a lot that still needed to happen before we could be sure it would be ours. We had a modest amount of money that we could use to repair any major issues that may have showed up on the home inspections, so we were very anxious about what they would find. If the repairs that needed to get done right away were going to exceed our budget, we would have to walk away from the house and pray that God would lead us somewhere else. Above all, we knew we needed to be wise-- not allowing ourselves to get upside-down financially in the house, owing more than it was worth, before we'd even moved in. We anxiously awaited the report, biting our nails down to the nubs and steadying ourselves with prayer.

On the 28th of February, we got the inspection report. Everything looked great, except for one thing.


Do you remember the dream that Chris had that I wrote about way back in Chapter Six? That was three months prior to this point in the story. Let me re-write it out here for memory's sake:

Chris 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.

Chris had this dream months before we'd even found this house. He'd had the dream back when we didn't even know what state we were meant to end up in.

What the inspections revealed was that the fireplace in the house was indeed inoperable. The interior of the fireplace box was made out of... thin wood, like plywood. If we had tried to light a fire in there, it... would not have gone over well. haha. It would have all burned up in there. There was a grate in the fireplace when we looked at it, and wood sitting inside ready to burn, so we had assumed it was in working order, but the inspections revealed otherwise. It was almost as if a fireplace insert had been removed, and what was left was just the wood framing that had held it in place. There was also an issue with the chimney. We braced ourselves for how much the repair estimate would be. If it exceeded our allotted budget, it would have to be a deal breaker for us.

You see, the fireplace was a necessity for us, much like the storm shelter had been. In such a rural and removed area, where winters bring ice storms and long power outages, we knew it was a feature that our family would need and rely on.

The initial estimate that came back to bring the fireplace into operating order was around the $10,000 range.

Ten thousand dollars?!?? There was no possible way we could swing that. No possible way! At first, we were completely discouraged and distraught. It was a hard blow. We tried to hold fast to the belief that God had plans for our good, even in this, but it felt a bit like the wind had been knocked out of me. We moped around in a fog for well over a day before I remembered the dream that Chris had had.

The dream! The fireplace! The insides made of wood!

Hope sparked up in my heart again. God had given Chris that dream for a reason, and now I was going to cling to it like a lifeboat. We prayed that God would make a way for us, once again. That He would somehow come through and make the impossible possible.

We decided to get a second opinion on the fireplace. The second guy that came out to look at it had a much less bleak take on the situation. He told us he could repair it and make it operable as a wood-burning stove for around $950.

Uuuuuummmm, yes please. We're gonna go with the guy who can fix it for over $9000 LESS thankyouverymuch. That was a number that could fit within our budget and meet the needs of our family.


Now, if you'll allow me to, I'd like to step out of the chronological timeline I've had going here for the last nine chapters and tell you quickly about the other part of this same fireplace dream that eventually came to pass.

A few weeks after the fireplace scare, we had another scare involving a... you guessed it... tornado.

The weathermen had been calling for a rash of severe storms to come through the area for a couple of days, and they were warning people that the set-up for these storms was a cause for great concern. The storms were going to be sweeping through the state in the middle of the night, when everyone would be asleep, and they were going to potentially be so severe and so strong, that words like "Joplin, Missouri" were being thrown around. People were on edge, and the weathermen were telling everyone to rest up as best they could during the day on Saturday so that we could be awake and alert when the storms started rolling through after midnight.

At 3:00 in the morning on that Saturday night (or I guess it was Sunday morning), we heard the storm sirens going off here at our house in the city. The sirens were coming from the nearby town of Edmond, which is North of us. We turned on the TV to see what was going on, and I kid you not, we were immediately greeted with the radar image of a massive storm headed RIGHT for the new house. We sat, frozen, on the couch and watched the black core radar image of that storm cell pass directly over the pond behind the new house as the weather men were saying, "We can't confirm it visually, but if there's not a tornado on the ground with this storm right now, we'd be surprised. Everyone needs to be in their shelters now!!"

It was pitch dark. It was 3:00 in the morning. We had NO idea if the house would still be standing when the sun finally came up to reveal the damage, and all that we could do was WAIT until we could drive up there and see the house for ourselves.

It was the looooongest night of my life. As I tossed and turned, I once again remembered the dream that Chris had had. In the dream, my family had seen a tornado coming toward the house as they looked out a big window on one wall, but then it shifted the other way. I realized that the new house did indeed have a big giant window on one wall- the West wall, and that that was the exact direction that the storms had come from that night.

I wanted so badly to believe that the dream would prove to be true once again, and that the house would be spared, but I was a nervous wreck as I waited for the sun to rise.

We drove up to the house in the morning, and to our complete relief, it was still there- in one piece. Only one of the trees in the front yard had been snapped. All of the other huge trees on the property were still standing strong.

There was no denying it now... that dream had been a gift from God regarding this specific new house- something for us to hold onto when the road got rocky- something to fortify hope and faith in this season of so many ups & downs. I will never again be able to doubt or deny that God speaks to us TODAY through dreams and visions, just as He promised He would do in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17.


Believe it or not, God wasn't done using dreams with us quite yet. As I jump back into the timeline of the story, it is now mid-March, and I had another powerful dream that had to do with my husband and his work. Chris had still been unsure of what God was calling him to, as far as occupation went, but we both knew that things were going to be shifting in that area since the very beginning of this whole journey- when Chris started having all those dreams about walking away from his paint truck. We were still asking God what he was supposed to do-- keep painting in a different context? Paint and produce music? Paint and DJ and help lead the college ministry? Quit painting all together? Our idea of what Chris would do vocationally seemed to be ever-shifting and changing, and we still couldn't quite piece together how it was all going to work out.

One Saturday night, I had a dream that we were having a big gathering/BBQ up at the new house. There were tons of kids running around, and there was a big play set in the backyard. I was playing with the kids out there and digging around in the soil with trains and tractor toys, when I unearthed a note that had been tied around a small rock. It looked like it had been out there for a while. I unwrapped the note and saw that it was addressed to my husband- written out in a little kid's handwriting. At the top there was a drawing of my husband holding a child's hand, and the note underneath simply said:

"Dear Chris- Quit your job when the leadership comes."

The note had been signed by Finn, who many of you may know is the eldest boy of the wonderful Davi, whose blog I have been reading for yeeeeears now.

I told Chris about the dream, and we were completely tripping out about it. It seemed so specific... so practical, even! It obviously pointed to child-like faith and trust, but we just didn't know (and still don't fully know) exactly what the "leadership" would be, or when it would be coming, but it felt like an important piece of the puzzle so we wrote it all down and tucked it away for safe keeping.

{{Side note: If you ever have a dream that felt like it might be even the tiniest bit significant, write it down!! Pray over it! Take the time to do it. You will not regret it, and it may end up being a tremendous help to you, as it has been to us these past few months. God speaks to us in dreams!!}}

That next morning, we went to church, where our pastor was just beginning a series of study on the book of Joshua. In Chapter One of that book, God tells Joshua over and over and over again that he needs to be 'strong and courageous' because God is with him. God is reminding Joshua that he does not need to fear any obstacle because the God of Heaven is on his side. The message really spoke to us, and to Chris especially, as he is in this season of so much change and so many unknowns vocationally.

When we got home from church, I emailed Davi to tell her about the dream I'd had with her son Finn in it. She wrote back later that day and expressed how exciting it all was, God speaking so clearly to His children, and near the end of her email she said, "Tell Chris that I say to be strong and courageous!"

The exact same words from the sermon we'd been so affected by that earlier that day!! God was speaking to us with a megaphone, and we were slowly learning how to listen and trust more and more as He kept proving Himself faithful over and over again.

God was going to be with us!! What exactly would Chris' job situation look like in the future? Umm... no idea! But the GOD OF HEAVEN WOULD BE WITH US! We had orders to be strong and courageous! In all of the unknowns about Chris' work and balancing out all of the passions he has in his heart, God would remain faithful. He was asking us to trust Him with a child-like faith... and fear no obstacles along the way. After all, He writes history in advance! Why should we fear the future, when we know our ultimate future is secured in Him?

After such an amazing journey as this, we were ready, willing, and able to say YES and to wait confidently for where God would take us next. The God of JOY was not through with the story yet. He wanted to celebrate with us. He wanted us to sing and dance with joy and gladness... to seal and commemorate the goodness He'd poured out on our family over the past few months, and over my life for the past 3 decades. In short, it was time to par-tay.

And so, with one last chapter to go, this story gets to end with a bang. And it all came about through two amazing dreams and a dress...

May 16, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Nine.

'Treacherous Hope'

After all of the crazy confirmation and blessing that we had received about this house, you'd think I would have been floating on cloud nine all the way to the closing table, nary a drift of worry crossing my blissful mind... am I right?

I mean, surely, after a person has such an amazing experience as that- gifts from anonymous donors and dreams that become reality and provision only moments after taking a leap of faith- you'd think that a person like that would have no reason to doubt or grumble or fear ever again!

May I direct your attention to the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years?

That is totally me.  I would have fit right into that group of ol' stiff-necks.  I mean, they were led out of slavery through a sea split in two! They followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night!  Water was spewing from rocks and and they woke up every morning to find miracle-food growing on the ground in front of them!  And yet... they grumbled.  They complained.  They kept trying to devise ways to go back to Egypt and get rid of Moses for good.  They didn't believe in God's goodness toward them, even after all they'd seen with their own eyes.  And they were not just reading Bible stories about what God had done one time, they were ACTUALLY drinking rock water and eating honey flakes called manna and walking on solid ground through a canyon made not of rock but the waters of the Red Sea.  Oh, and their shoes never wore out, through all those 40 years. Even still, they doubted.

I am no better than they.

After we'd accepted the counter-offer on the house, I spent the next few weeks trying to convince myself that it was all too good to be true... that I needed to be preparing myself for the moment when it would all get pulled out from underneath me and all my hopes would be dashed.  It was now mid-February, and we weren't meant to close until April 2nd.  Inspections were sure to reveal some disastrous blemish!  Financing was sure to fall through at the last minute!  I didn't tell many people about the house, so that I wouldn't have to explain anything after it came to nothing.  I didn't allow myself to mentally arrange furniture in the rooms, nor did I let myself daydream about the sunsets or the schools or the large piece of land my boys could run and grow on.  I avoided thinking about the house like it was the plague, and I picked up my security blanket of... grumbling.

I furrowed my brow.  I started planning for the worst.  Expecting it, even!  Every time Chris would talk about the "new house", I mentally scolded myself to not believe it until it was actually, irrevocably true.  And as I dwelt longer upon these thoughts of "this is too good to be true and therefore will not be given to me", I started to believe them.  And as I started to believe them, I got angry.

Now, I believe that there is some wisdom in guarding yourself against disappointments, when the things you are hoping for are on this temporal earth.  After all, the only hope that is anchored secure is our hope in God and all that He has promised to those who believe in Him: the promise of heaven and His victory over death.  But there's also this pesky kind of hope that springs up in the human heart whenever good things are on the horizon... and what are we supposed to do with that??  Strangle it to death, as I was trying to do??

I can see now that my fault came when I started filling my mind with my own truth, rather than God's truth- the things He says about Himself in the Bible.  I was clinging to the 'worst case scenario' in the name of self-protection, when I should have been clinging to the truths of who God is and resting in His promised protection.

He loves me.  His plans for me are GOOD.  He is the anchor of my soul.  He is a very present help in times of trouble. He who keeps me does not sleep nor slumber.  If He is for us, who can be against us? Though the earth gives way, we will not fear.  He is our refuge and strength, our strong tower.

These would have been much more life-giving and faith-building thoughts to hold on to in those weeks of uncertainty... when my very hopes and dreams were on the line.  I should have stayed myself on Him and Him alone.  Instead, I hung on to my own philosophy: "If it all falls apart, at least I'll be able to say 'I told you so!'"

Oh, if I could do it over again, I would have waited on God in faith, rather than stewing angrily in my fortress of self-protection, with its tissue paper walls and quicksand foundation!

Thankfully, God did not abandon me to my huffy-puffy state.  He came and rescued me from myself and lifted my chin up.  And He did it all with such gentleness and love, despite my crossed arms and dug-in heels!  I will be forever grateful.


One Saturday evening, Chris made plans for us to drive up to the house, without the boys, and he brought along a bottle of wine and two fancy glasses.  For the entire 30 minute drive up there, I was steeling myself against treacherous hope, and filling my mind with thoughts of "this probably isn't going to happen, so don't let your heart get excited".  The constant effort it took to keep my mind off of this house was taking a toll on me.  I was weary and tired and on the edge.

He pulled the car around the back of the property, behind the big barn, where all we could see was land and trees and sky and horses.  It was cold outside.  I felt like a trespasser.  (Technically, I guess I was. heh.)  He opened up that bottle of wine and he poured me a glass, and then he reached for my hand.  We walked the property and sipped our wine and talked.  As my feet walked that patch of earth that night, something miraculous happened.  All those heavy days of self-protection and doubt and anger started to melt away, and I felt... hope.  Hope in God.  Hope that the God who'd brought us this far would not abandon us now in the ninth hour.  Hope that, even if this house didn't become ours, there was a good and sovereign reason for this all to have happened.

By the time we got back to the car, I felt one hundred pounds lighter.  I felt less like a trespasser and more like a steward.  My countenance had brightened.  I felt joy and peace.  The drive home was filled with excited talking and dreaming and wonder.  I was filled with gratitude and completely in awe that God had chosen to speak to us so clearly about so many things.

I began to trust God more than I feared disappointment.  It was a big shifting point for me.

The following evening, we went to a meeting at our church.  We'd recently introduced covenant membership at our church, meaning that you choose to link arm-in-arm with the other believers in the church body and you identify yourself with them, through the good or the bad.  You 'sign on the dotted line', if you will, and become accountable to the leaders and the people.  You commit.

The class went along normally and at the end, our pastor told us we were going to take communion and end in prayer.  Chris and I filled out the form to commit to Bridgeway Church, and we went to take communion.  As soon as we got back to our seats, with the piece of bread for communion in our hands, the strangest thing happened.  What I thought was just an ordinary class suddenly became so much more.  As I took communion, I was suddenly and completely overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.  After all of those months of crying out to God to lead us to where we should go, He had lead us here!  We got to stay and be a part of this community that had become like a family to us over the past six years, and we got to commit to this place we that we loved so dearly... the place that we had so dreaded the thought of leaving.

It was like the floodgates opened up and all of the hope that I'd been holding back bursted through.  In that moment, I just knew that the house was going to be a gift from Him, and I allowed myself to truly THANK God for it for the first time.  I could not stop weeping.  When I looked over at Chris, he was weeping too.  It was a completely unexpected moment.  We must have looked like crazies sitting there in a membership class, weeping with joy and thankfulness over our class notes and information packets.

God had come through and answered our prayers.  He had been faithful to lead us.

He is a trustworthy Father!

There were definitely more hiccups and bumps to come, but what I didn't realize was that God had already given Chris a dream that would carry us through them in confident assurance.  The specifics of the dream were so incredibly spot on to what actually ended up happening, that I will forever and always come back to it in times when my faith is lacking.

And, oh! I hope and pray that it will be a help to you all in those times of trial as well.


Thank you all for your continued support as I write out this story!  I am grateful for each one of your comments and emails.  xoxoxoxo

May 8, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Eight

'The One Where We all Cry like Babies'

We went to see the house and fell completely in love. It was everything we had wanted but had not been able to articulate. It was bigger than our current 1100 square foot house, but not excessively so. It was on two and a half acres, and we felt like we could breathe. There was a big barn (already partially built out) that would make an amazing recording studio/workshop for all of Chris' projects. It was way out in the country, but you could get back into town in 10 minutes flat.  The school system was one of the best and most sought-after in the state.

And the sky. Oh, the sky! It was big and bold over our heads and at night it sparkled with a ga-jillion stars. I'd forgotten there were that many! There were horses on both sides of us and four bedrooms and a fireplace. There was even a fire pit out back for sing-a-longs and marshmallows.

There was room for a garden and chickens and goats.

There was room for my family to thrive.

It had only been on the market for two days, and we knew it wouldn't last long. Yet, we were still a bit hesitant because... well... this was the very first house we had even gone to look at! Shouldn't we, I don't know, look around a bit more before we dove right in??


Sometimes you just know about these things... sort of like how I just knew about a certain tall, lanky, bleached blond 18 year-old drummer named Christopher Clark back in high school. Sometimes, you just have to let your heart get a little reckless... break a rule or two.

Besides, I'd been looking around online for long enough to know that this was something special.

The next day, we took the $500 gift we'd received and we put an offer on that house. It was an offer that would work for us while leaving us some extra cash to put back into the house for some updates. We wanted to re-do some of the floors and update the bathrooms and put in a storm shelter. <---(PRIORITY ONE.) A few days later, the owners countered the offer we made, asking us to pay $4000 more than we'd initially offered.

Looking back now, it seems silly that those $4000 caused such tumult in our hearts, but we really didn't want to pay more than we felt we should. The decision now came down to buying the house, knowing that we couldn't fix up some of the things that we would want to right away, or walking away and praying that something else would sweep us off of our feet like this house had done.

We went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth for a couple of days. An extra $4000 out of our pockets would probably mean no storm shelter right away. If we did buy the house, we'd end up moving in right smack-dab in the middle of tornado season, and we'd lived in Oklahoma long enough to know that a storm shelter was not optional for our family. It was an absolute must.

We prayed that God would help us make a decision. We wanted the house so badly, but we wanted to be wise too.

It had been a week since we'd first seen the house, and our already frazzled wits were about to snap with the weight of this final decision. At this point, we had been seeking an answer from God about where to make our home for about eight months, and this felt like it could potentially be the final hurdle in the race. If we decided to accept the counter offer, we would be committing to staying here in Oklahoma. We would be making a huge choice for our family, our three growing boys. Should we do it? Should we not? Were we missing it? Or were we right where we were meant to be?



Friday, February 17th was the day we took a leap of faith over that last hurdle, and it was also the day that God poured out so much confirmation and blessing on us that we could hardly stand up underneath it all.

That morning, Chris had planned to go straight to work, but on his way there, Cameron called him. Cameron told Chris about an amazing thing that had happened to him the day before. God had basically told Cameron through a prophetic word that all of the stuff that had gotten stolen from him would be restored, even though it had been missing for two whole months. That very same day, he had every last bit of his gear returned to him by the local police, who had caught the guy who stole it all. As Cam was telling Chris this story, Chris happened to be driving right by our church. Chris was so excited about what God had done for Cameron, that he pulled off the road into the church parking lot so he could hoot & holler and finish the rest of the phone conversation.

After he got off the phone, he felt like God was asking him to go inside the church sanctuary and pray. He hopped out of his truck and went inside. As he was praying, he felt like God was telling him that he should not stress so much about the numbers. It was less about how much was needed here or there, and more about trusting that God would provide for us and wanted to bless us with this house. He was asking Chris to lift his eyes up.

As Chris was walking out of the sanctuary, he ran into his best buddy Joel. He wanted to fill Joel in on all that was happening, so they went to grab a bite to eat. Chris told Joel about the house and the $500 that had been given to us. He also started to tell Joel about the dreams that I had had- including the one about all of the college kids filling up our new house.

As Chris started telling Joel about my dream, Joel's eyes filled with tears. He said that for the last few weeks, he and the youth pastor, Andy, had been praying about and scheming up ways to try and get Chris to be the college worship pastor for the brand new college group that they were going to start up at Bridgeway in the Fall. They hadn't wanted to approach Chris with the idea yet, though, because they knew that he and I were considering leaving the state, and they hadn't wanted to put any kind of weird pressure on us if we felt God calling us elsewhere.

This was all just so... crazy. And really, a dream come true for my musically talented and pastorally-hearted husband. Chris was crying. Joel was crying. And then Joel asked Chris what the HECK he was waiting for on this house. haha.

Chris called me and filled me in quickly on everything that had happened that morning, and told me he was feeling like we should go for it on the house. I agreed. Then Chris texted the real estate agent and told her we wanted to accept the counter offer.

Joel and Chris were clinking glasses and celebrating just as my mom called me at the house. She said that she and my dad had been talking, and they had decided that they would like to give us $5000 toward the house, as a gift.

Say what?!?!

Literally SECONDS after we accepted the offer on the house, after feeling like God said we should move forward in faith and He would provide, we were being given more than enough to cover the difference we'd been wrestling with...more than enough to install the storm shelter that we needed.

Now I was the one who crying. I texted Chris the news.

Basically, to make a long story short, we were all just blubbering like little tiny babies everywhere. hahahaha. Chris told me later he wanted to stand up on the table in that restaurant and just shout to all the people sitting there that there truly is a God and He is is REAL!!!  Our joy was overflowing!  We had never felt God so near.

We were not completely in the clear yet, however.  There were inspections to be done and financing to secure.  I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the most challenging parts of this journey was still up ahead for me... but God had already been orchestrating a way to prove Himself faithful in that yet again.

He had already authored this entire story, in advance.  He does not write our lives out in chapter installments, hoping it will all come together in the end.  He IS the Beginning and the End!  We are wrapped up in His story, and the ending is always good for those who trust Him.

May 3, 2012

In Hope of a New Day: Chapter Seven

'The Envelope'

One of the major things that this season of unknowns has taught me is that God loves our honest questions.  Have you ever been around a three year old?  I have one living under my roof as we speak, so I have a very tangible example of what it means to "have faith like a child".  My son Myer knows how to ask for what he wants.  (I'm sure many of you are nodding in agreement right now.)  Three year olds know how to ask for what they want.

They start out asking sweetly and within seconds you are sure to be dragged through the entire gamut of their emotions if your answer does not quite line up with their desire.  They have no shame.  They will ask and ask and ask and ask again in any way, shape, or form that they can dream up and then they will go ask their daddy when you're not looking.  Their asking feels like insatiable knocking. (Or maybe water drip torture? haha.)  You can choose to answer the door and give them a straight-forward answer, or you can be slowly driven insane by trying to act like it's not happening.

God asks us to ASK like this, coupled with the faith to believe that the answer He will give us is for our good, even if it doesn't look like what we thought it should look like. (Luke 11:5-13)

When Chris and I were faced with the conflict in our hearts about moving, we started asking God to increase our desires in the direction we should go, and decrease our desires in the way we should not go.  It was like we were constantly hounding God- holding out option A or B in our hands and asking Him to make one bright and make the other dim.  And you know what?

He did exactly that.

If you are standing at a crossroads in life and you have no idea which direction to take, start asking God to increase your desire in the way you're supposed to go, and decrease your desire in the way you should avoid.  Hound Him with the question.  Ask like a man on fire would ask for directions to the nearest pond.  Don't try to hide your passionate desire to know what to do from God.  Lean into Him.  Cry out to Him like a wounded animal!  He can take it!  He loves to answer His children. (Luke 11:11-13)

As Chris and I prayed for our desires to strengthen in the direction where our home was meant to be, it became clear to us both, over a short period of time, where that place was.  We kept checking in with each other over those days and months... asking each other what we were honestly feeling, and we discovered that the most amazing thing was happening.  God was changing both of our hearts toward the same place, in different ways, at the same time.


We may have come to the conclusion in different ways, but we both knew that we were not meant to leave this place just yet.  God was so faithful to answer our asking prayers!

For me, one of the ways God started to communicate this to me was through dreams.  I have always prayed that God would speak to me in dreams, and He definitely has two or three times in my life, but it had been quite a while since I had woken up in the middle of the night and just KNOWN that the God of the universe had just authored a story in my sleep.

Late in January, I started having really specific dreams about our situation.  In one dream, Chris and I stumbled upon a house that was for sale within some kind of an enclosed courtyard type area that was attached to the front of our church.  In the dream, we just knew we were meant to buy it and Chris kept saying "We can watch over the church from here!"  When I woke up, I just knew we were meant to commit to this church, and make our home here.

Also, I was finding that day after day, the thought of leaving this city became less and less appealing.  Less... stomachable.  I started to dread the leaving more than I desired it.  My heart was slowly changing.  Even though we were now freed up to be able to just leave and go wherever we wanted, it was becoming the very last thing that I wanted to do.  I did nothing to create this change in myself, it was simply God working in me.

At this point in time, I really started scouring the real estate sites and MLS listings for houses around the Oklahoma City area.  I just knew that it was time to start looking more seriously.  We thought we'd maybe like to move closer to downtown OKC, but nothing was really landing with us in those areas... the homes were all a lot older and needed constant upkeep, the schools were a bit rough, and none of them really screamed "home" to us.  So, we kept looking.  And looking.  And looking.

A few days after the 'church courtyard house' dream, I had another dream.  In this dream, we had bought a big house out in some beautiful country, and all of a sudden it was filled to the brim with college students.  They were there for a conference, and our pastor Sam Storms was speaking, as well as our bestie Joel, and my husband Chris.  I was helping out too in any way that I could. The conference was all about sexual purity, and, in the dream, the college kids were all really affected and encouraged by the three speakers.  I just knew that everyone who was there would never be the same.  The dream ended with me walking out to look at the outside of the house that the conference had taken place in.  On the outside, in big letters, there was a sign that said "NOTEBOOK BOX".

Notebook box? Like the box of notebooks I had pulled out randomly from under the bed at the beginning of all of this craziness?

Could God be saying that those crazy years of heartbreak that Chris and I struggled through as teenagers... those years that I had written about and documented in all of those old journals that were now in a big cardboard box under my bed... would be used somehow to affect and encourage college kids? Could our broken story be used to make others whole? That has been a dream of ours since the day we finally made it to the altar.

It seemed too wonderful to even imagine, all of that pain being turned upside-down into beauty like that.  I stored all of this up in my heart and hoped it would somehow be true.  But... how?


One Saturday night, shortly after I had that dream, Chris prayed that God would speak something REALLY clear and tangible to us at church the following day.  He prayed that it would be undeniable, and he asked that it would come from someone who didn't even know anything about our situation.  He was asking for a prophetic word.

That next day was Sunday, February 5th.  Chris was leading worship that morning, and after the first service, a woman walked up to him and handed him an envelope.

Chris told me that the second she placed that envelope in his hand, he knew.  He had no idea what was inside of it, but he just knew that this was the thing he had been praying for the night before.  Tears sprang into his eyes.  Jayme, the woman who gave Chris the envelope, said that it was a gift from an anonymous person who just wanted to bless us.  She prayed for Chris and she told him to open it with me when he got home later that day.

When he came home, he told me all about what had happened, and we opened up the envelope.  Inside was an anonymous money order made out to us for the amount of five hundred dollars.

We were shocked and amazed and humbled all at the same time.  We didn't know exactly what the money was meant to be for at the time, but we knew that it was very important... a specific answer from God.

Two days later, I was scanning the MLS listings for the area again, and I clicked on one that had been added earlier that day.  It was unlike anything that we had looked at or even considered before, but I was drawn to it.  As soon as it came up on my computer screen, Chris walked across the room to look at it over my shoulder. I clicked on a couple of the pictures attached to the listing.  Chris straightened up, paused, and said, "I've got chills from head to toe.  We need to go see this place."

Ummm... agreed.  Yes.  No other house that we'd seen online had even sparked enough interest to go look at it.  This was something all together different.  This house made our palms all sweaty. heh.

The next day we called the real estate company that was listing the house.  We set up a time to look at it, and Chris asked about what might be required if we wanted to put an offer on the house, just so we could be prepared.  He wasn't sure if we'd be able to swing it financially at that point in time, because he was thinking that the earnest money we'd be required to put down in order to make an offer would be around the $1200 range.  He thought we were going to have to wait a bit before we could put an offer on anything, because our official closing date on our old house wasn't for another three weeks.  It seemed our hands would be tied financially for a little while longer... but would this house still be there when they weren't??

The agent replied, "Oh, you'll just need $500 in earnest money if you decide that you'd like to put an offer on the house."

Five hundred dollars?!  FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!?!

The EXACT amount we had been given two days earlier.

We finished making arrangements to go see the house, hung up the phone, and started praying like we'd never prayed before.