Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Let It Be

       There's a place my daddy used to take me to when I was a kid called Holly Creek. On long hot summer days we would journey there with my younger brother Chase in tow, primed for adventures fit for our wild imaginations. It was just that, a creek, that wound lazily from the mountain on down to the valley at the foot of it. Sprinkled with drops of sunlight through the overgrowth above, the creek's water glistened like fine glitter and hushed any voices that were not creature or nature, as it broke itself against the smooth stones that supported it. Green covered branches of life sprouted from the roots embedded underneath and offered shade for passersby as well as homes for critters. Chase and I would swim in the creek as Daddy fished. I tried the fishing part, but I always caught a tree limb high above me rather than fish from the waters below. However, a daddy-daughter fishing trip did offer 16 trout to my Barbie fishing rod one year. It was a lucky day. An unforgettable day.
      I remember Chase's guttural little boy laugh as it echoed off the sides of the mountain walls surrounding the creek. His head would fall back, his eyes squinted, and his dirty-blonde hair would shake liquid crystals onto his perfect peach skin as the heavens' light glowed behind his fuzzy ears. The water carried it and our childish little bodies, dusted pink by the sun's rays downstream as our memories etched into the stones, never to be washed away by the current. Life was so simple. We'd float, letting the water carry us without worry of the rocky obstacles ahead. I can still see my little brother, using sticks as water moccasins and trying to scare me. Splashing me. Laughing his life's song and threatening punishment and death by tickling. I never worried about anything as I looked up at the break in the trees overhead, seeing only the blue of the heavens and wondering if God was there relaxing on one of the larger rocks, providing the cool in the water, rocking me with the ebb and flow of His gentle hand.
       Now the break in the trees means something different. When I close my eyes I see the busyness of the forest and the water. The blurriness of the creekside makes the colors run together like wet, drippy paint. But the blue that it all frames . . . there's peace in that place. If only I could focus on it rather than the rushing waters and the passing bank on either side.
       It's one of those uncertain times when I don't know where the current is taking me. I heard someone say not long ago, "I don't believe God has a plan for your life."  It confused me and I actually got kinda ticked off as I thought, well, dude, you just completely negated Jeremiah 29:11 and a plethora of other imperative scriptures. Then a classmate explained it better: It's not that God doesn't have a plan. He does. But you have to play your part in it or it doesn't come to fruition.
      One can't just sit around doing nothing and hope she's accomplishing something. This semester I've learned that we're a part of God's story. But characters in God's story DO SOMETHING. They aren't sedentary. They are active players in this blessing we call life.
      However, when one decides to be a part of the story and actually do that something, she also has to understand that she's usually doing it blindly, completely unaware of the outcome or future. And regardless of writing skills or any tenacious audacity she may hold in her heart, she's not the one holding the writing pen.
      When we found out we were moving to Nashville I was never once scared of what would happen with my education. God had brought me this far and DSC wasn't the end all be all of colleges. In fact, I was getting my wish: I would finally leave DSC and earn a golden ticket to somewhere better suited for me, my educational goals, and most importantly my spiritual goals. Father opened every door that needed to be opened. Money fell from His hand. I was anxious for nothing.
      Over time God has shown me His mighty plan, the one I'd been praying about and following since I was old enough to understand. I changed my major. I moved. I turned my life upside down and dumped everything out for Jesus, as He tossed what I didn't need and organized what I did need. I stood back and watched Him, moving where He pointed, dancing as He directed the symphony around me. I was at such peace.
      There's a song I love that says, "In the process, in the waiting, You're making melodies over me." I plan to paint that and hang it in our music room here at the house. We've experienced quite a bit in the almost 5 months we've been in Nashville . . . this house, for one. I'm still speechless over that  miracle. Jo's job, Lilli's acceptance into her school, my acceptance at LU, our tuition miracles . . . but God's next surprise would be one to confuse the living daylights out of me. And in my humanity, I would fall prey to the anxiety from which I am always and forever running. Oh, me of little faith . . .
      Jesus' mother Mary was a simple 13 year old girl with high hopes for her future before she became the womb to house the Savior of the world. She was to wed Joseph. Her life's calling, like many other young women of the time, was to be that virtuous wife and mother that all aspired to be. But God, in His great wisdom and all-surpassing power, had a different plan. And a cooler one, I might add.
       I read Luke in its entirety this semester for my Story of Jesus class; we did a pretty in-depth study of the book and I learned some things about my Father that I'd not considered before. It's amazing what happens when we read the story a second, or one thousand and second time, and take different perspectives.
      From the outset, I found myself noticing Mary more in Luke 1 than ever before. When God comes to me in His still small voice I question everything He tells me until He simply says, Brandi. His spirit is all over me and He knows every thought before I even form it, so my answers come quickly in those times that He speaks so clearly. But Mary was different. The angel, a source of comfort sent by the Creator Himself told her she, a virgin, was going to have a child.
      Sweet Mary . . .  A 13 year old girl clearly understood the implications of pregnancy before marriage. She would face a painful and humiliating death if she was found out. Life as she knew it would end. Her family would face public shame. The man she was to marry would be shamed and above all his heart would be shattered. I can imagine his thought: my darling bride, so pure and precious to me . . . how could she betray our would-be union? How could she slaughter our would-be life that was to be filled with love and children?
      But Mary, in her innocence and simple but authentic faith, in her complete, unhindered trust in the Lord only asked one question: How can this be when I've never known a man? How, when I'm a virgin?" And the angel told her that she would be overcome by the Holy Spirit's power in miraculous creation and conceive a baby boy. Mary's response? "Let it be."
      Oh, that my faith could be like Mary's. Let it be, God. But I add to the how's and throw out a million why's. Mary didn't know much more than what the angel had told her. Your child will be the Savior. He'll be awesome, fabulous, blessed, everybody's gonna love this kid and tell you just how magnificent He is! That's all she knew. Logic and Reason screamed "death." Faith screamed "life."
      Faith seems like a better friend than Logic and Reason. That's why I usually don't ask Logic and Reason to stay for dinner. They complain too much about my cooking anyway: this is fattening, I'm not full, could you please cook something other than your normal menu? But Faith . . .  she's the best guest to serve at my table next to Jesus: what a beautiful spread; I am grateful; I am blessed; I am honored to be a part of this celebration. Dinner time with her is always a celebration, as we sit down and thank God for our meal, our family, our home, our small bank account that we know will make ripples in the kingdom. Faith is my encourager and supporter, and she reminds me daily of who gave her to me and my family.
      On this rocky ride down the creek I'm finding myself clinging to faith with one hand and Jesus with the other more tightly and in a way I haven't before. The past year and a half has brought with it quite a few trials and questions, but I'm praising God for every single unknown, for they have prepared me for this moment. I'm kind of a weeny, so while I'm clutching on to Jesus my face is buried in His chest as He carries me like a baby, wadded up into a tightly knit chunky ball, eyes squeezed as tightly as they can squeeze for fear of seeing anything that might shake me loose. How silly of me! Nothing can snatch me from His hand (John 10:29) and I'm surely not going to be knocked loose from it. I see Jesus laughing, His beautiful head swinging back as a hearty laugh escapes His lips: Open your eyes, child! I want you to see the way we're doing this . . . together. It's gonna be awesome and I don't want you to miss a single thing! 
      My educational journey has not panned out the way I'd imagined: to graduate with an English degree, get a masters and a doctorate, teach, write, take over the English world. (That last part was just an extra for snickers and giggles.) Instead, I listened to God and changed everything over to theology when we moved. My decision has gotten me laughed at, made fun of, questioned beyond belief. I've been belittled and chopped into fish bait. I've even gone as far as questioning my own faith and sanity. And I've wrestled hour after dark hour with God. Paul didn't completely prepare me for this. Death, yes, but not this. So as I stare blankly down the loaded and sawed off barrel of "what are you planning to do with a degree in theology" I've done my best to finally let it go and feel comfortable in saying, "God hasn't made that totally clear to me yet." Allow me a moment to digress: God has made His will perfectly clear to me, I just don't have all of the pieces. Not to be vague, but I'm not spiritually ready to divulge all He's showing us regarding it. But we'll get there in the next few posts. I promise.
      In preparing for spring semester, God showed up. Don't get a student loan. You know that's not my will for you. Just trust me. So I refused any loans for spring semester; I feel that I was disobedient in the fall and got myself into an almost $6,000 loan mess that I'm going to have to pay off. It isn't God's will for His children to be in want (Philippians 4:6) or to be a slave to the lender (Matthew 6:24). I did just that rather than trusting Him. I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice as God allowed me a few minutes to understand math and I saw my measly $6,000 triple.
      So I prayed: God if this is what You want, I'll follow You. I'm trusting You and Your plan. So . . . are You gonna provide my leftover tuition? It's $8,080.00 . . . just in case You didn't already know. 
      I waited for Him as I was purged from my spring classes. In a confusing line of events, I was put back into my classes; after financial counseling and even more prayer, I let the school know that God wanted me to forgo any loans. They were completely understanding and more than nice, but they politely told me that I would be purged form classes the week after Christmas.
      I raved. I ranted. I wrestled. I cried. I sobbed. I begged. This whole scenario went down very much like those toddlers you see in the mall that you really want to paddle. I was more than angry with God. I shook my head and my fists as I cried for mercy. Why?! I have worked my ass off for 3 years, God, THREE YEARS! (Yes, I cussed. It's not like He can't read my mind, y'all.) What are You DOING up there?! (I kicked a pile of laundry.) GOD!!! I growled and screamed and clenched my fists. I beat them at His beautiful chest. Haven't You watched me stay up until the morning hours working on papers, scratching out note after note, reading, studying, researching, freaking BRAINSTORMING!!! I've stressed! I'm exhausted! I gave up time with my family for this!! I've done everything You've asked! I moved to friggin' TENNESSEE for You! I gave up my ENTIRE LIFE!!! And for WHAT?! So You could play God and pull the rug out like, My bad! Changed my MIND?! 
      As disrespectful as that probably was, I don't see the point in lying to God by sulking and not talking to Him. Jacob wrestled with God and got a limp from it. But he also got a new name: Israel. God knows my name and that's more than a title. He's the One who has seen me at my darkest and catches me after I punch the air and His chest, wearing myself out, holds me, comforts me, and reminds me that He instilled that passion in me. Don't lose it, His peaceful whisper pours over me like warm water. It's only another tie that binds us so closely together, one that only God sees from the inside out, regardless of respect or shame. He knows the roots of the reason behind my fit. He untangles them so they can breathe, and plants them in new, fresh, enriching soil. Besides that, if we can't be honest with God, we can bet that honesty with others will be wholly obsolete.
      After much anger and trying so hard to understand the lofty mind of my Savior, I finally gave in. I fell on my face in my closet one Saturday morning, clutched Father's beautiful feet and let it all go. Fine. Let it be. I give. And I'm sorry. I'm going to do this Your way because I've seen my own and it usually sucks dog nose. Don't fail me, God. PLEASE. DON'T. FAIL. ME. I begged.
       Have I ever, Bran?
      For the first time I would let go early enough and trust God from beginning to end. This was what He'd been preparing me for, and while I am still absolutely terrified, I am also strangely at peace.
      God made it clear not to ask Him again about school and tuition. My questions had been "how are You gonna pay for this? Am I gonna get behind? What about Greek? I'll not graduate on time, what then?" Quietly God reminded me that to trust Him is to have faith in knowing that He has the answers to those questions; I don't need them. Why carry around the answers when God is using them to build the future they support? I didn't ask after that.
      When God shows up in the car to tell you His big plans, you don't question that either. Lilli and I were driving to our hair appointment when we came home for a Christmas party just for the weekend. As Jeremy Riddle sang God of the Redeemed I said to Lilli, "I absolutely love this guy's voice. I'm gonna sing with him and Bethel one day. Just watch. We're gonna do it, Bug."
      Side note: sometimes I feel like Stephen the Irishman on the movie Braveheart. His fellow Scotts and Irish thought him a bit loony for claiming he heard the voice of God. They thought it even crazier when Stephen answered Him . . . aloud . . . and then promptly obeyed Him. I'd rather hear God's voice over those mocking voices any day of the week. They're like nails on a chalkboard to me. And I'll answer Him before I'll ever even entertain the racket that comes from the screeches sometimes referred to as the voice of Reason. Reason and Logic can bite me.
      In this moment, God had my full attention. Reason and Logic were nowhere to be found as He gently pushed into my soul all that He was about to accomplish. The blue sky appeared as the creekbanks blurred by on either side of me. My spirit fell into the Creators peaceful waters and trusted it absolutely. True to His nature, God revealed and promised several things, two of which have come to fruition in the past 5 days. While He was clear that I was not to get a loan, He assured me that He would provide, just as He always does, and His provision would be in a way I would never expect. I still don't know if that means I'll go to school this semester or if I'm supposed to take a semester off, which has never been a part of my plan.
      As I've been waiting on Him, He's made more and more information readily evident concerning our ministry. If I'm not meant to be in school this semester, I know exactly why and what I'll be doing. Again, I don't mean to be vague, but trust also comes with an enormous amount of silence and we all know that's a leap for me. However, I'm learning.
      As of this morning, I was purged from my classes for the coming semester. Oddly enough, I still have that strange, immensely satisfying peace filling me to overflowing as I continue to allow God's will to carry me, knowing that the stones and rocks beneath me won't hinder me in any way. Nevertheless, God could show up in the next five days with $8,080.00 and I could still get into my classes. Heck, He could show up with tuition to finish my last two semesters plus this summer AND pay off my loan. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. It's not like He has to make a bank run. Either way, I am positive that God's plan is better than the one I have in mind. I have no idea what is to come. And I'm okay with that, because Jesus does. That's all I need to know. For now I'll focus on the blue and forget the blur of greens and browns around it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Come Away With Me . . .

      "Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?" Isaiah 40:28a (Emphasis added.)

      Sometimes I feel so incredibly alone. How can someone like me, Miss Personality who's always running for Homecoming Queen, ever get lonely. Oh, but I can. Oh, but I do.
      So often I find myself isolated from the crowds, something I've never done before. I'm the life-of-the-party gal who makes "biffls" out of everyone she meets. The enemy will use past hurts to make me skittish, to make me question trust and a person's worthiness of it. He also makes me doubt myself. I don't feel pretty enough. I don't feel thin enough. I'm not stylish enough. By the time I'm finished not being enough, my poor self-esteem plummets to the earth faster than a fat kid running the required timed mile in P.E.
      It's been especially difficult here in a new place. I don't seem to fit. There's a certain fashion sense in Nashville. I got the memo, but I can't read the writing. I'm about 10 to 12 years older than my fellow students. Sometimes I'll eat my lunch in my car because I feel like an old worn out shoe that should probably just stay hidden under the bed and only come out for bug-squashing purposes.
      Oh, how wrong I am about my Father's greatest work, the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). How utterly wrong we all are when we cave to these thoughts about ourselves that the enemy pierces into our hearts. He's wrong. We are created in the image of the Most High (Genesis 1:27) and He is beautiful (Psalm 27:4 and 90:17). We are precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4). We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
       I love Nashville. I think it's partly because it's new, but also because I know without any shadows of doubt that I'm right where Father wants me. Oh, to be so sweetly settled in His will . . . but still, I do shake from time to time.
       Music City isn't called such for the heck of it. This place is saturated with the world's universally impeccable language with which each individual soul identifies. It's overrun with music. It's perfectly bursting at the seams with strikingly dissonant chords and chaotic instrumentation, constantly pounding in my heart and my ears. My pulse thumps to the rhythms of this place. Even the winds blowing through the slowly changing leaves carry a symphony worthy of recognition. I feel God continually strumming the harmonies of life in this place. I was born to be here, even if only to listen.
      As you can imagine, it's hard to sit and wait in the midst of our own personal music playground, seemingly tailor-made for us. But we can wait. And we will wait. We're even slow to tell people we're musicians. We're not here for music. We're here for Jesus. Even typing that . . . there is such perfect peace. Yes, the music is His tool through us that He will use in His time. However, the current season is our healing season in which God is preparing our hearts for His ministry within them. While we've been at work for him for a long time, He's moving us to the next step. The music is there. It's ready. It's been ready. But our spirits . . . our hearts . . . our minds . . .  He is working miracles in them, stitching together broken pieces, and refining us both in His burning fire. As impurities are melted away, we will come out of the Refiner's fire shining brighter than any sun-reflected piece of glass . . . So bright you'll see His reflection rather than either one of ours. You won't even know it's us. We're more ready than we've ever been to sing our Father's praise, but now is the time to wait for Him to anoint our tongues with His searing coals and place His new song in our voices and fingers. We are growing in Him. We are finding His heart, the heart He has for His bride. We're discovering depths of love we never imagined, let alone fathomed, for our feeble and flawed human hearts could never hold the amount of love our Father has for us.
       In the midst of the loneliness I have been reminded that my God never leaves me or forsakes me time and time again (Deut. 31:6). He sends me little reminders every single day as I make new friends and open my heart to them. They're my brothers and sisters; and I'm not to fit in with them, but to fit together with them. There are many pieces to a jigsaw puzzle to make one big, beautiful picture. None of them are ever the same. They're shaped different. They hold a different, smaller part of the larger picture, and they all belong in varying places. So as with the Body of Christ. We are one big body with many different little parts (1 Cor. 12:12).
      Tonight I was listening to this amazing song Father sent me over the weekend. My anthem since I was in high school has been It Is Well. It's sheer musical perfection. Every word, every note. However, as I said, God sent me a new rendition of it by Bethel Worship out of California. I've had it on repeat as the Holy Spirit continues to speak to me while I write.
       Last Tuesday night at church our worship leader Henry responded the Spirit's move over the Body that night and said, "Whatever position you need to get into in order to deal with God, I feel like we should do that. Kneel, bow, get on your face, whatever so you can deal with God." Little did Henry know, but I had been standing there thinking to myself, God, I want to kneel before You. I am so ready to give this burden to You. Before I knew it, I was on the concrete floor of Rocketown, my hands grasping the Master's feet and freely handing Him my pain and the burdens that were weighting me down so low that I was dragging the ground, leaving a slug trail in the dry earth behind me.
       Matthew 11:28-31 was on my spiritual formations midterm the following Thursday. I had been studying it tirelessly. And now, a week later, I finally see that Jesus was waiting for me to listen  
to His voice in it. (I'm using The Message version because I love the translation of this verse):

       Brandi, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover you life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep  company with me and you'll learn to live freely." 

      Now, read it again and use your own name. Listen to Him speak to you. Don't just hear Him. Listen. Soak into your ears and heart the Father's calm and loving voice. His thunderous yet quiet timber that vibrates your core and brings life to the blood pumping through your veins. Feel His sweet Spirit rushing through yours as He longs for you to truly belong to Him.

      As I continued to listen to Bethel's It Is Well the joy of the Lord took over and I thought to myself, "Don't you know? Haven't you been listening?" He's here, Brandi. That's why it's well with your soul. One of the greatest verses for the broken is Isaiah 40:31: "they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles . . ." (NIV) But have you ever read the verses before the part where the weak soar like the strongest bird of the air?

27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.
      I am confident that in this season that God isn't just sitting back and watching me struggle to understand. He gives me His peace. I close my eyes and press into His heart and trust in it. I have felt pain and wondered how I would ever move again. He was with me the whole time, holding the precious fragile pieces of my heart. I was reminded that His strength endures, not for one season, but for all of them. FOREVER. He KNOWS me. I was reminded that He stays. He is for eternity. He LASTS. When I dropped out He fed me from His cup of life and lifted up my head. I fly above the clouds with the Father of all creation where nothing can harm me, as I am safe in even the shadow of His wings. I can rest in Him, for it is well with my soul.  

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all 
It is well

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him 
The waves and wind still know His name 

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Monster Truck Tires and Other Attention Grabbers via Jesus

      My faith falters. A lot. I don't know why. I'm sure God wonders why, too.
      Brandi, I always come through for you. Why don't you trust me to come through for you every single time? Seriously, kid. We've gotta work on this. 
      I love how He talks to me. It's in a way I can understand but always snaps me back to reality. God will speak to you in ways that you understand. He'll sound kinda like your personality. "Why do that," you ask. You are made in His image, aren't you? (Genesis 1:27) If you're His, then don't you have the mind of Christ? (1 Cor. 2:16)  So why would He speak to you in a way that you're not going to comprehend or in which you'll not respond?  Father will use His encouraging conviction and never ending joy in a way that is specifically tailored the core of your being. And when He's quiet, you'll ask why, but in your spirit you'll know why. Just be still. Refocus your attention on Him and His precious presence. It may take a few minutes or even longer. But in the stillness of Father's presence you'll begin to unwrap the gift and purpose of His silence. He's waiting for you to be silent. He has something to tell you, but He wants your undivided attention and will remain totally quiet until He receives it from you. Other times he won't wait for you to be quiet. Instead, He'll throw big, fat, rolling, monster truck tires in your path to get the message across to you . . .  or whatever He may use to get your attention.
      Jordan sent me a message Friday alerting me of impending company for that night. I was thrilled! We love having company over to share in God's blessings, and each time someone comes to visit, be they long or short periods of time, we know we're fulfilling God's call on our lives and this blessing of a house. But my joy was short-lived as that sulfuric enemy barged in with his great financial reminder of our currently less-than-great bank account. Oh, boy . . . my tiny faith really sucks, but what sucks even more is that Satan gouges at it when he's out of ammo. What a piece of crap.
      I received a text from Jordan with a picture of our funds and was none too happy. What are we gonna do? I reminded Jordan that we had to pay bills and buy groceries. While I wanted to have this wonderful family over to eat with us (because that's how we roll here), I didn't know how I was going to feed them all: 2 adults, 4 kids, and a partridge in a pear tree. How was I gonna do this whole service thing when I had nothing to serve? On top of that I had research for a big paper I'm writing, a test, a quiz, and lots of studying to do over the weekend. I couldn't get it all together.
       For the few minutes that lasted between our worry texts, we sat in wait on the other's reply. I surfed Pinterest and talked to God in my head as my brows furrowed, and I felt the dreaded worry wrinkle grow so deep into my skin I just knew my skull and brain would need Botox. Then my finger scrolled and I ran across the following scripture: "Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!" Luke1:45  I sat there staring at the screen for what seemed like hours as the word believed coursed through my brain like water flowing through channels, attempting to arrive at the sea. It pushed here and there as waves of all I believed were propelled from side to side, knocking down one presupposition after another in effort to bring me the truth. All I could think was Mary totally got pregnant. As a virgin. Elizabeth was as old as dirt and there was no way she was getting knocked up . . . unless she completely believed.
       My phone buzzed and interrupted the river. Jordan was on his way to a customer when he saw Luke 1:37 written on the side of a building so big no one could miss it: "For with God nothing shall be impossible."
      Naturally we shared our obvious word from the Lord with one another. I was at peace, but still unsure of how to "feed the thousands" when during my drive home that afternoon, God spoke clearly: I gave you the house to bless others and Me. Trust me. In your trust, be obedient to Me. I'll take care of the rest. Remember, this is only the beginning, Brandi. 
      Our company was set to come over, and as I cleaned the house Jordan ran to the store for food. He came back with $80.00 worth of meat and sides for dinner. We'd planned to grill out burgers and we hoped against logic that there would be plenty of food. But logic can't explain an elderly woman's promised pregnancy. And logic can't explain a virgin birth.
      After we'd fed all 9 of us, two kids had seconds, two other kids ate 5 personal chip bags, and everyone was completely and miserably stuffed, we still had more than enough food left over to take care of our little family for the next few days. In His faithfulness God didn't break His promise. We're covered.
      Friends, I don't know what's going to happen with our checking account. I have no idea how I'm going to grocery shop for the rest of the groceries for this pay period. I have no idea how we're going to buy the set of tires we need for Jordan's car, or even how we're going to pay for gas. But I don't have to know how because my Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He feeds the birds of the air who don't gather and store up their findings in pantries (Matthew 10:26). He clothes the lilies of the field who are more fashionable than a king (10:29). And He feeds thousands with the equivalent of a few tuna cans and some bread (Luke 9:17). Oh, that my faith would remind me of His gracious, giving hand!
      My prayer today, for each of us, whether you're struggling to understand the momentary lack in your finances or not, is that we wouldn't worry. About anything, folks. God will show up when we least expect it, with far more than anything we could have ever imagined. He's still in the miracle business. He's still in the feeding thousands business. And He's still in the blessing business.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't Be A Moses

      Most of you know that my favorite saying is, "Wanna make God laugh? Tell Him all about the plans you have for yourself." People always ask me what my major is and what I plan to do with my degree when I finish. My answer has always been to teach my discipline, English, at the high school level; when I finish my doctorate, I'll teach at the college level. I usually polish off my perfect plan with, "It's really a fall-back for music ministry." Boy, my faith sure was lacking, wasn't it.
      About a month ago I found myself face-down on my bedroom floor in tremendous spiritual pain. There were groans of desperation coming from the pit of my being that were unearthly. I think sometimes when we read that someone "cried out to God" in the Word we don't take it seriously. I wasn't understanding why God had allowed some rough junk to enter my life and turn my sparkly little world upside down.
      I had been praying for days since the warfare had gone from "it's been a rough year" to "God, let me die." As I said in my last post, I'll write about this "rough year" in the future when it's all settled in my heart and I'm completely healed. But right now, I'm still in the middle of the healing season. However, there is much about healing that we fail to tell each other and ourselves. For instance, healing isn't just the renewing of our minds and then we're done. There's a process that involves several aspects: forgiveness toward others, forgiveness toward ourselves if needed (and it usually is), and total surrender and dependence on God. We also have to understand that, much like a flesh wound is sore, itchy, and finally just an old fading scar, a spiritual wound is the same. I'm in the itching stage right now. That's when the wound is annoyed and aggravated by the enemy and his minions, but I'm strong enough in Christ to brush that mess off. Eventually it will be a smooth scar, a battle wound that will serve as a reminder to use my shield of faith the next time one of Satan's fiery darts flies my way. But before any of this takes place, there's the flushing of the wound--the most painful part.
      Wound-flushing is the act of cleaning out a cut or gash to prevent or rid the surrounding area of infection. It also aids in healing. Jordan cut his finger down to the bone on an auger once and had to have stitches and a tetanus shot. In the triage room the nurse used a large syringe to forcefully squirt saline solution into his open wound. The fast flowing water from the force behind the syringe blew out tiny pieces of rust, dirt, and debris from Jordan's finger, making room for the flesh to properly pull itself together under the stitches as one piece on his finger, protecting the inside from further germ-collection, in effect protecting his hand, arm, and body as a whole. It was painful for him, and watching the process from my end was almost as uncomfortable.
      In the midst of my spiritual wound-flushing, God revealed all of where I'd gotten off track with Him as each little piece was gently but forcefully blown out of my heart by His cleansing and graceful flood. I watched as God flushed out splinters and chunks of spiritual rust, jagged-edged glass and shrapnel from my torn spirit. Some of the debris pieces were my own fault, some of them circumstances over which I had no control but inevitably got caught in the crossfire; parts were simply from attacks. I asked God to speak to me and I told Him I would do whatever if He would just save me from the demons in my head and show me what steps to take next. I've never been in as much spiritual pain as I was then.
      A few mornings later I woke up to God's voice: I want you. Change your major to theology. Insert record scratch here. I sat straight up in my bed; His voice was so crisp and clear that I thought I was dreaming and I even looked around the room to see if Jordan was talking to me. He wasn't there; he was at work. What? What in the world am I gonna do with that, preach? I laughed a little, then I remembered when Sarah laughed at the angel who told her husband she'd have a baby in her old age, and I retracted that slight giggle faster than I let it escape my lips.
      Never, I repeat, NEVER put anything past God. Now, I'm not saying I'm called to preach. Honestly, I don't know that; He hasn't taken me quite that far yet. But God did show me something huge that morning.
      I went to school two-and-a-half years before with the aforementioned  goal in mind to attain a degree in English. I'd toiled away at papers for hours on end and read books I repeatedly told myself I loved. In fact, I spent a lot of money at my favorite store, McKay, on a library of classic reads. While I love to read and write and I always will, I tried for two years to be something I knew deep down I just wasn't meant to be. There's a reason the word liberal comes into the title of "liberal arts department." And let's face it: Brandi and the word liberal don't mix. I didn't fit the mold. And there were quite a few to fit into: are you a Brit lit gal or a dark Poe gal? What about feminism? Do ya wanna take over "man's world?" Then there's southern writing and African American literature, poetry and American writers, and the list goes on. Before I even came in to the program I was being categorized, simply by how I look and by my age. I was expected to pick one and what I picked would be my banner, the bumper sticker of who I was on the English highway to literary greatness.  But my spirit always knew. . . it wasn't about who I was in English. It was supposed to be about who I was in Christ. None of the molds fit. None of the categories had a Brandi-shaped hole. . . better yet, a Jesus-shaped hole. As much as I griped to my friends and family, as much as I tried to reshape English, like an ill-fitting pair of skinny jeans on a plus-size gal, the program and plan just didn't fit right.
      After the spiritual warfare our family went through last year had all but ended, I shut down spiritually and threw myself into school. This is where the devil dug his sneaky little claws and I slowly lost track of the kingdom purpose the Father had called me to decades before when I was saved. I listened to every voice around me that I knew full well wasn't the Holy Spirit's. Not realizing it, I was playing with fire in several ways and thinking I was fireproof. Praise God, His grace and mercy is sufficient, and He'll only allow His children to go so far before that grace suffocates the fire and calms the child around which it dances. While I wasn't burned, I was stunned by how close I'd gotten to the heat when my blinded eyes were opened to all that was happening around me. See, we may not think we're doing anything wrong after a battle dies down and we settle quietly to avoid pain and move forward. But when we're silent and there's no communication with Father, who's there immediately to give communication in the Holy Spirit's stead and plant rotten seeds in our fragile, dry soil? The enemy is not above slithering through the cold mud to warm himself by a stagnant body. This is where he lays his traps, and I almost fell into a couple of them. Some of you are wondering, "What'd you do?! What kinds of sin did you fall into?! I think we should pray!! AAAHHHH!!!!" I didn't do anything, and I certainly didn't fall into anything. But I easily could have, and I certainly withdrew from the Father unintentionally. I'm no different than the next guy or gal. I'm human just like you. And while the spirit is so willing, the flesh is still so weak. The importance and point of the scenario is to highlight God's mercy and plan over our lives. While God saved the day and rescued me from a lifetime of pain, He also allowed the fire into my life to teach me the importance of drawing close to Him especially after spiritual warfare. That's the point when the enemy will pull the rug out from under us if we're not careful and totally dependent on God.
      I ripped apart literature as I read through it, analyzing and molding its components, only to find that my interpretations were always of the spiritual nature. My professors would always comment on and applaud my understanding of the spiritual side of literature. I never understood their seemed fascination with this; to me there was no other side, as hard as I tried to see it. I would flesh out other analyses but they always came back to Jesus. When the Holy Spirit becomes one with the human spirit and finds rest in the body and soul He inhabits, it's hard,  no, it's impossible to separate one's mind from the heart of Christ she's after. I couldn't know anything else. I saw it; I was more than aware of it. My eyes were already open. And what was the point of knowing anything but holiness when I was created for His glory, His purpose, His calling, His holiness?
      Over the course of those two plus years, I'd spent dollar after dollar here and there on the canonical classics of the liberal arts. I'd laid awake in bed all through nights writing a senior thesis to please a handful of people and win the approval of their intellectual minds, some who didn't even believe in the One who created the art itself. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to write the best. I wanted to impress the best. And since I'd been so severely hurt by the Body of Christ, my own people, my desire was simply to forgive, forget, and move on. So my hunger to fill the open and rotting wound became ravenous as I tossed one written word, one professor's approval stamp, one A+, and one penned classic after another into the polluted gash and stuffed the infection as far beneath the pile of paper work as I possibly could. It came to a point where I didn't even know why anymore. I had no clue why I was an English major; I only sought to prove a point, but I was so separated from what that point was that I didn't even know there wasn't a point from the outset.
       It was then that God woke me up, literally and figuratively that morning in July to say, "You know better than to think your calling is English."
      As I sat up in bed I thought to myself and to God, What am I gonna do with this?
      Study to show yourself approved, Brandi.
      But I love English. You know this. . . right?
      No, you don't. You just like it. Big difference. I know your heart.  
      I can't preach, God. I'm a singer. We've been over this.
     You can do all things through my son who gives you strength. And, hello! I'm God. Anything's possible with me.
      I'm not a speaker, God. I'll sing all day for You, but I'm not a speaker.
      Brandi, please don't be a Moses. Learn from him.
      But I'm a chick, God.
      That one, He did not like. And from there He made it very evident that He was going to reveal who can do what in His name. From there, He reminded me of His hand and calling on my life. And I followed God's lead to change my major.
      For months since we solidified the move I'd been trying to work out classes, my advisor, and my transfer credits. While everything transferred, I was having trouble getting into classes and my advisor was always unreachable. No matter how I finagled my way around phone calls, emails, other departments or teachers, I could hardly get hold of her. It was like there was an invisible wall surrounding me. I was also having trouble with financial aid and how to pay that almost $30,000 tuition.
      The morning came when God spoke. I had been playing with the idea of changing my major for about two days when I awoke from the previous night's sleep to God's call. This was the last call I ever expected to hear from God. Of all majors, why this one? I made my decision that day and didn't look back.
       I emailed my admissions counselor to find out how I was to go about changing my major. 24 hours later I still hadn't heard from her, so I checked my account for other information when I noticed my major change had been updated. Within minutes I had received an email from my new advisor and within another 24 hours I was signed up for classes. My financial came through shortly after, and what I thought was going to be a $10,000 remainder for me to pay out of pocket turned out to be only $1,896. I was set. The door was open and all I had to do was walk through it.
      Since then I have questioned God many times: I'm excited about ministry and theology, but God, why? I'm not fully understanding this. My heart has learned yet another lesson at this stage of the life game. Self-discovery is a never ending journey. But it's not Self I'm after. It's Jesus.
       I have talked so many times before about how I'm constantly trying to find Brandi. In reality, I'm not supposed to be seeking Brandi. I'm supposed to be seeking God. I can't focus on who I am even as a Bible major, but rather who I am in Christ and more importantly who He is in me. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. " There are no tag lines about seeking through self or another outlet; He simply says "when you seek me with all of your heart." We are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:17). If I'm searching for Brandi, I'm not searching for Christ. It isn't Brandi that leads me, it's His Holy Spirit.
      Finally God gave me some insight. I've been drowning in peace concerning my decision and my calling. But God knows this analytical mind better than it knows itself. So He sent me a little push:

      Luke 6:40. Yeah . . . Sometimes I forget that the answers are right in front of my face . . . and they're written on the tablet of my heart (Proverbs 7:3). 
      My first big paper is to be an exegetical research paper on 1 Corinthians 14:33-36. After all of my questioning and my challenge of sorts to God concerning my sex and its place in ministry, He made my first assignment one that will shape my thoughts about women in ministry for the rest of my life. 
He's quick like that. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

97 Springs Road

      Our house in Dalton was a very special house. We officially moved into it October 1, 2006. We'd been there almost 8 years, and every last moment of those 8 years was sheer bliss. In 2009 we had to vacate for three months due to mold. I thought I was going to lose our little house. But in the transition of having the mold damage repaired, I distinctly remember going over to the house. I put my arms on either side of a door frame as if I were hugging it, and I begged God not to be finished with us in that house. I loved it too much. After all of the repairs were finished, God granted my request and we moved back into it.
      This house carries so many precious memories to us, and we will never forget its heart. Within the walls of it we worshiped with friends, held birthday parties and showers, Christmas parties, movie parties, and Bible studies. There were nights we stayed up until the early morning hours playing music with some of our closest and dearest friends. When time ran away from us, those precious people would sleep on our couches and have a late breakfast with us the following morning.
      The yard saw many a cookout and held visitor after visitor who allowed its grass to creep between their toes much like the comfort of that house, as twilight swept over its horizon. The sounds of katydids played their summer symphony and lightning bugs danced on the heat waves of the humid summer air as stomachs settled and ice rattled in wet Solo cups. Some of those nights were lit up with bonfires as we quietly conversed of the complexities and simplicity of God's grace and His insurmountable love for us. Surrounded by 50 acres of peace, only to be interrupted quietly by a deer or turkey family, the house invited calm, relaxation, and the welcoming sense of home for all.
       We counseled with young adults on their futures and relationships. Some nights housed their crying eyes and our worn shoulders; other nights housed friends caught in a snowstorm.
      And yes, there was snow. We saw several snows in that house and were blessed to be able to utilize the warmth and the romance of its gas logs. How we treasure those days!
      At Christmas the atmosphere was swallowed up by twinkling lights. A magical storm of colorful glitter permeated every room as carols on the radio and Jordan's guitar filled each one.
      This house was our haven when we were sick and our comfort for all of the moments in between. It was our home, and home was definitely where the heart was.
      I was excited for our new adventure to Nashville, but I didn't want to leave my little house. Then we found our new house and couldn't have been happier. However, this little 97 Springs Road house will always hold a special place in our hearts and memories. The smells and sights, the sounds, and the sky over it. . . The last day I was there I stood in the peace of our backyard and I soaked in everything I could through my six senses. I looked all around me at the trees and the sky, wondering if it would look the same above me in Nashville as it did there. I waited for the moon to rise, asking God childishly if was the same moon that shone over Nashville. I listened to the life chattering around me as the sun began to set. I breathed the Georgia mountain air into my lungs; there's no smell like it. I crouched on the ground and grasped the crisp, cut grass in my fingers. There was no place like it. It was heaven on earth. Where I was going would be a concrete jungle compared to this perfect garden.
      The last few hours at our little house were bittersweet. While moving, we reminisced about memories past and days gone by, and we laughed at how we thought we'd be there forever. But forever isn't always what it seems to two 24-year-olds who only have the afternoon planned out in reality.

      When we pulled out of the driveway for the last time in Dawnville, Jordan looked lovingly at our little house. I cried a bittersweet cry. "So long, little house. You've been good to us," he said. And it had. What a treasure we had in this beautiful home. We will be forever grateful to God for our time in it. 
**To Randy and Tena Porter, the owners of our little house: Thank you. Words cannot, nor will they ever be able to express the gratitude we feel toward you. Your willingness to let us rent from you and the encouragement and support we received from you during hard times was overwhelming. You helped us grow in so many ways and taught us so much during our time there. Thank you. We are forever indebted to you; may you be blessed exceedingly abundantly above as we have just by being able to call this wonderful house our home. We love you! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Exceedingly Abundantly Above

      It's August 22, 2014 and I am no longer in my sweet little brick house in beautiful and perfect Georgia. God has moved us north to Nashville, Tennessee, which I can't much complain about. However, it is a bit different and I am slightly culture-shocked. Nevertheless, we're here. We made it. I say this with a smile of pride in my Jesus and wonder at the Father's mighty hand.
      Three years ago the dream of getting even an inch closer to God's plan for our lives was looking like just that: a dream. . . and nothing more. Three months ago God revealed that our dream wasn't so simple. In fact, it is HIS dream, embedded into our hearts and souls by His loving hand. Three days ago I laid in the bed of our new room in our new house and thought, You made this happen, Lord. Why have you been so gracious to me? Why do You love me the way You do? 
      When God called us to begin this new trek into His perfect plan for our lives, we had no idea how it would ever work. That was our lack of faith shifting into overdrive. Moving is expensive. Nashville's cost of living is much higher than good ole North Georgia. We only know two people in Nashville, both very busy and not directly involved in our lives at the moment. But we pushed our faith in the opposite direction, the way it was supposed to be headed, and trusted God. Just as well, as I said in my last post, we'd stopped looking for a place to live; we waited for God to open the door to our new home so we could walk right into it, just like He said.
      We felt God leading us to pray for certain things in our spirits regarding the home we'd be living in. We were in total agreement about these requests: an extra bedroom for friends and family to stay when they visited, or if someone needed a bed for the night, extra space so we could have worship in our house the way we did in Dalton, safety, and a few other specifics He'd laid on our hearts. With a larger place, we could grow as a family and more importantly, glorify the Father through our ministry and this calling He has placed on our lives, plus the burden we have for His bride within our home. God was constantly reminding us of how He wants to give us the desires of our hearts, of how He's able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Psalm 37:4; Ephesians 3:20-21)
      Earlier in July, possibly late June (I don't really remember), my mom called me to tell me she'd been in touch with an old friend she hadn't spoken to in a while. They caught up on the latest news when mom told her friend that we were moving to Nashville. Her friend was eager to tell us of yet another friend, also in the music industry and ministry, who was renting/selling his house. She sent the address directly to me and I almost fell over in the floor. The house was huge: almost 3500 sq. ft. of rooms I couldn't fill with all of the furniture in my own house, but big enough for all we'd prayed for and then some. So Jordan and I prayed again. The owner wanted $1600 a month, which was out of our price range. Just the same, we prayed and felt led to contact the owner directly rather than go through the realtor.
      I had no direct contact information, but the mutual friend suggested I visit the owner's website and email him from there. She had assured me that he would reply to me, especially since he knew Jordan and I were interested in the house. As I sat at my laptop I could only pray. God, we can't afford this house. I know it's not out of Your price range because You're God, but do you want us to live here? Am I wasting my time? You seriously want me to ask if they'll budge on this rent? And my fingers began to type.
      After introducing myself as best as I could over email, I poured out my heart about our ministry, calling, and new journey with Jesus. After that, I was brutally honest about our finances and what we could afford. I wanted so much to be completely transparent with this godly man; the last thing I wanted was for him to think I was some crazed fan, so I was very careful to let the Holy Spirit do His thing through me rather than try to sell myself as if I were an applicant for his home. After looking at homes over and over in Nashville, we'd learned the hard way that some realtors were shopping for buyers/renters instead of buyers/renters shopping for homes. Jordan and I didn't want that. It was important for us to put our faith in front of us, not to use it for any sort of gain, but to allow it to guide us and the people with whom we were dealing. We didn't want to be unequally yoked with any landlord, and for the past 7 and a half years we'd been very blessed to rent from family friends who are some of the godliest of people we know. Honestly, we were looking for that again.
      I ended my email by asking the owner if he could budge at all on the rent price. I told him our ceiling was $1000 a month. I knew he wouldn't come down $600, but it was worth a shot, and quenching the Holy Spirit wasn't on my to-do list. I asked this man to seek God's guidance and came to him as a sister in Christ, not a renter looking for a handout.
      Within hours I received a reply. He told me he didn't think he could go that low on rent, and that he was concerned about the distance from where Lilli and I would be attending school, as well as from Jordan's office because the house is in Hendersonville, but he and his wife would pray about it just the same. We were praying for the Holy Spirit to intervene and communicate what He thought was best between both parties.
      I didn't hear back from him and a few days later I found the house for sale online, whereas before it had only advertised as for rent. My heart sank, but I moved on quickly. God knew better, and we trusted His heart over our own. Maybe I'd misunderstood God's plan in contacting the man. I didn't know.
      As I said before, we had stopped looking altogether. On Saturday morning, August 2, Jordan got a wild hair to look for rentals on Craiglist as his anxious flesh took over. There, he found a 1224 sq. ft. condo in Antioch, TN. We called the owner and drove north to view the condo. The owner was nice and had ties as an alumnist of the schools we'd be attending. However, he wanted $1200 a month for this tiny condo; we'd be downsizing in furniture, selling some, and all we prayed for wasn't going to happen. But we were down to the wire and needed to be there by Thursday the 7th at the very latest. Lilli was to start school the following Monday.
      Jordan and I left the condo and drove to a nearby Kroger parking lot where we shook with nerves and wondered if we were making the right decision. We called the owner and said we'd take the condo, but we weren't totally at peace about our decision. God had sown requests and His plans in our hearts that weren't lining up with this condo; renting it would choke all of those growing seeds, but we trusted God and went with it. As we sat in the parking lot on the phone with our new landlord, he explained we'd have to wait until Wednesday when we moved in to sign the lease. With heavy hearts, we went home to Dalton and finished packing the rest of our things, too stressed to be anything but grateful that we'd at least finally found a place.
      The morning of Wednesday, August 6th opened slowly and almost somberly. This was not how I'd expected to be riding off into the sunset of our dreams. Had we made the right choice? Was this what God had in mind? We were a bit confused, but trusted His heart without fail.
      The big moving truck our buddy Chris McDaniel had borrowed for us sat in the driveway awaiting its breakfast of fresh furniture and sealed boxes. I opened my eyes to look around my little green bedroom in the morning light one more time. It was one of the last, if not the last morning I would wake up in that room that carried so many memories. Rolling over to Jordan I sniffed his neck and nuzzled him, then I grabbed my phone and walked to the kitchen for some coffee. My phone alerted me to an email and I opened it sluggishly, not caring what it contained. . . until I read the sender's address. It was from the homeowner in Hendersonville. He and his wife had prayed about our offer of $1000 a month. In return they offered us the house for $1250 a month. My jaw fell open and I dropped the phone onto the dishwasher countertop in front of me.
      "JORDAN." He was in the living room by now checking emails from work.
      "What?" He could tell something was up by the tone of my voice.
      "You might wanna come read this. . .like, now."
      I was completely speechless and this is me we're talking about here. I am never speechless; I have words for everything!
       Jordan stood in the kitchen in nothing but his underwear, his Fraggle Rock hair a mess over his still sleepy eyes that zoomed from side to side across the phone screen. It took a minute for the email to set in for both of us. A smile slowly stretched across his face and his eyes widened as he ran his fingers nervously through his hair. He squeezed his eyes shut and started laughing. "We need to pray."
      After a series of emails between us and the owner and prayer all around from friends and family, we felt the Spirit's blessing as we made the decision to take the house. But we couldn't get in touch with the owner after the first few emails to let him know we'd accepted the offer. I was sitting at the kitchen table dripping wet from sweat partially caused by moving boxes and cleaning, partially caused from the coronary I was sure would momentarily ensue. My mom was sitting with me. Seeing the anxiety on my face she began to pray, "Lord, send a couple of ministering angels to [the owner] and just give him a little prick to call Jordan and Brandi. We're waiting on You, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen."
      My phone rang and it was the homeowner; this was the first time we would speak via telephone.
      He'd gotten my email but had been super busy at his church that day. His dad was going to the house to leave us the keys and garage door opener and we were all set to move in immediately. When Jordan talked with him he said they'd tried to sell the house and there was no logical reason it shouldn't have sold. The only thing he could figure was that God wanted us to have it. Jordan then called the condo owner and explained all that had taken place; while he was disappointed he was very understanding: we were moving to a home almost 3 times the size of the condo for $50 more a month.
      Some of you may be thinking, "I thought your limit was $1000 a month?" This is true. However, as I wrote about in my last couple of posts, the Nashville housing market is pretty flooded. As we prayed, God has continued to show us time and time again of how He'll take care of us financially. After all, isn't it all His money? We've been walking on water this entire time with our eyes on Jesus. Yes, we've faltered and fallen below the waterline a time or tow; yes, we've questioned and yes, from the very beginning we've looked at each other and said, "How?" But Father's ways and thoughts are higher than ours. So we took another step on the water and said "yes" to the house.
      Within hours we were completely loaded up and headed to Nashville to pick up Rico for unloading. A little after 11pm Nashville time, we pulled into the driveway of our new home.
      It was more than we could have ever imagined. Humbly, we walked in through the garage door of this massive brick house and flicked on the lights as the smell of home wafted into our nostrils. The light, the space, the cleanliness, the blessing. . .  We were overwhelmed by God's monsoon of a gift and the four of us shouted, cried, and jumped around in the wide open space of our future.
      All Jordan and I could think of or say when we looked at one another was, "We were supposed to wait.  This was why God waited until the last minute. It wasn't ready. The [owner] wasn't ready." It was just like the Holy Spirit had communicated through Kat: It's there, it just isn't ready. When it's finished, the door will open and you'll only have to walk through it. His words were all I could think of when we stepped into the house that first night. They're still all I can think of, and I'm still overwhelmed and grateful every day that I pull into our driveway.
      After about an hour or so of walking around this massive gift, we broke out the anointing oil and anointed every window and door, then prayed and dedicated our new home to the glory of God. As we stood in the foyer of the house, Rico joined in with the three of us, we held hands, and Jordan led us in a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication. Now, I don't tell you this to puff myself or my family up; we're far from holy and not even close to perfect. See, through God, all things were made possible. No matter where we would've ended up, we had planned to dedicate our home to God's glory.
      We only asked for a third bedroom, but in this house we have two, technically three extra bedrooms. We even have extra parking! All that we asked for and more was gifted to us by His merciful, gracious hand. It's only by Him and His spirit that we were able to get this house and make it our home. He worked a miracle through the owner. Before any home was put into view, we promised God it would be consecrated to His glory and the furthering of His kingdom. While we may be seeking shelter under this house's roof, our new home will do nothing less than glorify the One who gave it to us.
      We unpacked the truck and moved furniture into rooms, making sure our beds were set up for the night. In my excitement I had left all of the sheets and bedclothes in Dalton, leaving us to sleep on bare mattresses, but we didn't care. We would've slept on the floor of our new home if we would've had to; no mattress can ever take the place of the cloud that cushions the heart when a blessing appears, or the warmth of the hand that cradles us in faith. Either way, I was so excited that first night that I could hardly sleep at all. The second step of God's plan had come to fruition all around us, and I couldn't wait for step three.
      I'm posting a photo of our new house, not to brag on "my big fat house" or to even brag on myself. I can't take any credit at all for this home. I'm posting it to brag on Jesus. This house is a miracle! Friends, we prayed for just a little extra space so we could fulfill our calling in Jesus by having worship at our house. We just wanted a little extra room; nothing more. But God says He's able to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we ask of Him. And He did just that. So often I put God in a little box or keep my requests small because I don't want to be excessive and I don't want God to have to go to too much trouble for me. But through this house we've been shown that God not only wants to bless us with the desires of our hearts, but He has plans that far exceed those desires. He wants us to ask for excess for His glory and the furthering of His kingdom because His desire is to give it to us! Just imagine, what we think is so magnificent is only a drop in the bucket compared to what God has in mind. Our prayer is for the walls of this beautiful house to record our lives, to comfort the lost coming to Jesus, and to hold the praise and worship of His glorious name. We are humbled by His gift and His will to use us for His glory. May it bring honor and glory to Him, further His kingdom, and be a blessing to Him in every way, and may we be able to return the blessing to Him and so many others along the way. To God be the glory, GREAT things HE has done!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Extreme Spiritual Makeover: Waiting for the Big Reveal

      The most common and seemingly important question on everyone's tongue as of late has been, "Have y'all found a place to live yet?" And the answer is, well, no.
       I've gotten almost comfortable with the looks people give us when we tell them our plan....or lack thereof. God doesn't work on my time-table, nor does he put His pants on in the morning the same way I do, one leg at a time. His ways and thoughts are so much higher than mine. Keeping this in my feeble mind, I remember that His plans are also higher, and definitely much better than mine.
       The way God fashions a baby takes nine months under the cover of darkness. This little human is a perfectly kept secret. Every aspect of him, from his little fingerprints to the way his nose turns in response to his giggles and gurgles until his momma pushes this little miracle out into the world, is a mystery for the parents-to-be, and all in spite of modern technology. There are secrets to the miracle of life that even the smartest of scientists can't explain. As God forms one miracle in secret, so does He form others. This is why they're called miracles: because there's no explanation to how they come into existence.
       Jordan and I have prayed faithfully about where to live in Nashville. His new job is in Franklin, and Lilli and I will be together in Nashville during the day, so we've been looking for a place that will keep the commute to and from both places short. Now, I don't know what some of you know about Nashville and the vicinity, so I'll just assume it's what I knew going into this: nothing. We budgeted our rent for $1000.00 a month. This is a lot more than a house payment, but after praying about buying a house, God shut the door and plainly said, "It is not yet your time." (Yes, I borrowed that from Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou) We have looked tirelessly for a place in that price range. What is $1k here in good ole North GA is swanky, but in Nashville? Well, you're lucky to get 750 square feet for that price. Any lower and you're gonna live in the ghetto. Now, I'm not a spoiled brat and I don't expect the finest. But safety is a big concern in the city, and most places for rent under $1k a month aren't exactly safe. The culture shock we're about to face is far different than anything I ever expected.
       In our search for a place to live, I've packed almost our entire house. In fact, it's starting to smell like cardboard in here and every liquor and dollar store within a 10 mile radius loves to see me coming.....for boxes and toilet paper, that is. While the move has been nerve-wracking, I've had some other spiritual issues to deal with as well. The past year's trials came crashing in a few weeks ago and I basically shut down. I cut myself off from my friends and cried for days. The devil and his minions were attacking full-force and pretty unfairly, if you ask me. (I'll write more about this in the future.) I was struggling with severe anxiety, irrational fears, thoughts, and worries, and a whole host of other demons.
      Finally, I prayed: God, I need an angel. A BIG ONE. You know how analytical this mind is; You created it, so it's gotta be obvious. I need for you to tell me that this pain isn't for the heck of it, that You're doing something. Please show me something....anything. Just help me, Lord!  I cried out to Father from the very depths of my spirit with a pain only the Holy Spirit could communicate. Soon after, we were leading worship for the Celebrate Recovery (CR) program we're now involved in at Calvary Memorial Baptist in Chickamauga on Sunday nights. I was as low as low could get and wasn't really up for singing, but praising God was the only comfort I could find. After our first song, the congregation was shaking hands and getting comfy, when in walked our good friend Chris McDaniel.....and a whole host of military angels. For the rest of the worship I cried. I couldn't calm down. So I stood with my hands in the air and worshiped my Jesus. Chris was there for a purpose, but he didn't know it.
      After the service Chris came to chat with Jordan and me, then he looked at me and said, "So what's going on? You gonna tell me what's wrong or not?" Jordan and I lost it. I broke down completely and told Chris everything that'd been happening. See, Chris never comes to our CR because he has to lead worship at his church. He just happened to have that night off because of Father's Day when he'd laid down to take a nap and God woke him up telling him he had to go to CR at Calvary. He got dressed and ran out the door immediately, not knowing why. After Jordan and I had poured our hearts out to him he gave us encouragement and prayed with and over us. Then a man walked up on the stage to talk with him, and Jordan and I were engaged in a new conversation with someone else. The conversations all came to a close when this man talking to Chris, whom I've never seen at CR before, looking much like a thin version of Jerry Garcia, stared directly into my eyes and said, "This pain? All that you're going through.... it's for a purpose. He has a plan. The storm will pass, but it's going to strengthen you and further your ministry. God has big plans for you. You just have to trust him."
       Chris had not told my *angel anything about us. My heart melted because I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking through him. I almost fell on my face as I embraced this kind stranger, and Jordan said, "I think you got your angel." Friends, he was my second angel, and God sent TWO MORE. After Chris and Jerry, God sent another. *A wonderful woman prayed and talked with us about things she couldn't have known. A few days before, Jordan and I were in Nashville talking about my situation. We were riding down the road, alone, when we talked about how God will allow the devil to attack, but He keeps him on a tight leash like a dog. He may come nipping and growling at your heels, but he can't bite you because Abba yanks the leash and chokes him. This wonderful woman came to me and said, "God will allow the devil to attack you, but he's like a dog on a leash. He'll come nipping and growling at your heels, but God'll yank the leash. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world! Brandi, great is the howl that is in you than the one biting at your heels!" Needless to say, there was some serious celebrating going on that instant, as my third angel prayed.
     Shortly after this, our friend Will with whom we lead worship prayed with us for healing for Lilli, not knowing she has food allergies. I told Jordan, "I only asked for one.....God's so good He sent me FOUR!" From here, I was put in contact with a wonderful woman by the name of Kat Beights with Daybreak Ministries. She's a Christian counselor, but her ministry also focuses on deliverance. By the grace of God, I was able to get an appointment, and through her, the Savior has made great progress with me in so many areas of my life. (Again, I'll write about this at a future time.)
      The second time I went to meet with her, Jordan came with me. It was a wonderful and blessed time for us. We told her about our move and more about Jordan's feelings concerning what we'd been through in the past year. I don't remember what exactly happened but Kat asked us to give her just a minute. We could tell she was listening to God when she finally spoke to Jordan. Jordan began to cry like I've never seen him cry before. In fact, I've only seen him cry a couple of times, but this was completely out of the norm for him. She told him that God has the path laid out for us. Everything is set in place, that all of these other things are distractions from the enemy. Every detail is worked out, all we have to do is walk into His plan. Nashville is where they will come to fruition, and we won't have to go looking for the start of it all; it will come to us. God revealed many other things that afternoon, then Jordan said, "I feel like God wants us to stop looking for a place to live." I was shocked; I had been feeling the same way but hadn't said anything to Jordan as I simply thought I was just tired of looking. Naturally, I spoke up and Kat just nodded and smiled. "You're right."
      Since then, Jordan and I obeyed God and stopped looking for a place to live in Nashville. Several people have sent us links to apartments, condos, houses, etc., and yes, we've looked at them. But that still, small voice has lovingly said, "Wait. Be still." We are waiting completely on God to reveal it to us in His time. Some people may think we're crazy. Friends, I am reminded daily of how far Father has brought us, of the miracles He's performed in front of our very eyes, and of the promises He's kept in our hearts over the past 33 years. He is unchanging, and He is able to complete the work He starts in each of us. Our new home will be ready in time for us when God has completed His promised work. I like to think He's laying tile and waiting for the grout to dry. And when He finishes His work on our home, whatever and wherever it is, it will be a joyous and restful day in Him, full of worship. Until then, just as Abraham waited on the Lord, we'll praise Him for the patience and endurance He is building in our spirits daily.
      My mom has called or messaged me several times lately, tormented by the worry of us not having a place to live. I've reminded her as well as myself of God's words:
                    1. Ask: Matthew 7:7
                    2. Don't worry: Matthew 6:25-34
                    3. Don't be anxious: Philippians 3:6
                    4. God wants to bless us: Psalm 37:4
                    5. God will meet every single need: Philippians 4: 19
                    6. We can do this: Philippians 4:13
                    7. He's gotten us this far.... Philippians 1:6
                    8. All things are possible with God: Matthew 19:26
      Over the past month God has shown up in our lives and our home in a mighty way, revealing secret after secret as we chase after His heart. He said, "Call to me and I will answer you. I'll show you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own." Jeremiah 33:3. We have called Him and asked Him and He's remaining true to His promise. I can't wait to share it all with you, my brothers and sisters in Him. . . . . .

*The names of those involved in Celebrate Recovery (aside form worship leaders) have been changed or omitted for privacy purposes. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If We Just Ask

      Jordan and I have been very specific with our prayers as of late. Our prayers haven't been vague and cloudy, but crystal clear and polished with faith. His love letter says it need only be the size of a mustard seed. (Matthew 17) But this mustard seed He planted in the heart of our little family has grown into a forest of mustard trees.
      With this leap of faith to Nashville, we've run into many questions for God, the biggest one being "how?" But God's answer to our "how" is simply, "Watch this." After the sign concerning Jordan's new job, our faith was watered with steroids. I am by no means on top of the faith game. I'm human, pitifully flawed, and still scared to death, but I'm reminded of Peter on the water with Jesus when the devil's slithery tail starts to whip at my ankles. "Don't look down, Brandi," says Jesus. "Keep those made-up eyes on mine and we'll stay on top of the water. I'm right here. Don't look down. . ." I'm trusting Him and I'm keeping whole face upward, my weak and frail hands in His perfectly scarred hands. . .the hands that made my heart. . .why am I afraid? What have I to fear?
       CHS works with financial assistance programs for families who can't completely afford tuition; this is common for Christian schools. It is based on need throughout the school, on a first come, first served basis, and awarded accordingly. God has provided in the past through this assistance and we were more than blessed to have qualified for it. We recently qualified again this year for financial aid. However, tuition isn't covered 100% through the aid. Therefore, we were left with a portion that was to be our responsibility. Upon receiving our award letter, we also signed saying that we accepted our award and agreed to pay our portion in full. This contract locked us in. The agreement means the awarded family agrees to pay even if they pull their child from the school. One of my prayer requests was this: "Lord, we're in a financial aid agreement with CHS. We need for you to take care of this because we can't pay tuition at two schools, but I don't want to 'jip' CHS."
      I'd been meaning to call the school for the past few days to tell them our news, get information concerning Lilli's transfer, and to ask about the agreement, when I got a phone call from our dear CHS financial lady, Terri Ward.
      "What's this rumor I'm hearing about ya'll moving?!" she asked me. I could tell she was shocked and confused. In a matter of minutes I'd shared our story and the breath-taking miracles God had been working. She congratulated me, praised the Lord, and asked if there was anything she could do for us.
      "I think we're good, but I'm wondering how we work out this financial aid agreement. . ."
      "What financial aid agreement?" she asked me.
      "Well, we signed the paper saying we'd accept Lilli's award and we'd pay our portion," I replied. Then Terri said to me,
      "Well, you're moving more than 50 miles away. You have no financial aid agreement with us. You're free and clear and you owe us nothing."
      I could hear the smile in her voice and I started to cry. My heart was pounding and I felt God smiling as if He were saying, "I told you. . . Just keep watching, kid. It's only gonna get better, " with a wink and a flip of His sleeve.
      Terri asked me if I was okay and I began to tell her about my specific prayer for Lilli's tuition. She was in awe at the great God we serve who never ceases in surprising His babies. Then she told me she didn't want to be "gruesome" but she needed to know what to do about Lilli  because the need for financial assistance is so great this year. She told me that she had a specific family in mind, that through our obedience and step of faith another child would be able to attend CHS and receive Lilli's award. Praise God for His blessings in disguise that fall on all of His children! I don't know who the family is that is going to be awarded what was our's, but my prayer is that they will be as richly blessed by becoming a part of the CHS family as we have. Our cups have been running over for 5 beautiful and magnificent years, and we couldn't be more grateful to CHS and God for the service they have put into our family and our child. We are better people for having been a part of Christian Heritage School.
      While our hearts are breaking to leave our CHS family, we know that we will be continually supported and encouraged through prayer. And we hope they know that they can count on us for prayer and any other favor in the future!
      We have several more specific requests that we have been daily laying at the Father's feet. My question for you is this: what do you need? He wants so much to bless you, friends. Just ask Him. It's so simple. He reminds us to ask and if it's in His will, He'll give it to us! (Matthew 7) It's not a Christmas list and it's certainly not about testing God. It's simply opening up the most hidden pieces of you to your Creator. God knew us before He made us and when He fashioned us in the secret place. (Psalm 139)  He knows the numbers of hairs on our heads.(Luke 12)  He already knows our hearts (Acts 15; Matthew 6), but He wants more than that. He wants to hear our heart through the voices He fine-tuned to praise Him, to see our empty hands held out to Him (Psalm 63) in raw faith that isn't boxed in (Hebrews 11), but wild and free, knowing no borders or boundaries, relying only on Him. In the process, your life and the blessings God has for you will bless those around you, further His kingdom, and glorify the Father. It doesn't take Hamlet to figure out where the rub is: you'll be blessed simply by watching others, your brothers and sisters in Christ, be blessed. And your walk with Him will become richer than you ever imagined as the bond between the two of you thickens, as you decrease and He increases (John 3). Our mission in Him is to go into all the world and preach the gospel. What better start to do it than to just ask Him for extra tools to do it. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Where He Leads, We Will Follow

    There have been quite a few occurrences in the past year that have shaken me to the core of my very being. In the past few months in particular, I've wondered if there is even a glimmer of recovery in my future. But in the midst of my search for peace and even the smallest shred of understanding, God yanks my arm and reminds me of His lofty logic that His children may not always understand, and in some cases,  may not even want to understand.
      As some of you may remember, Jordan lost his job two years ago. On my 30th birthday, to be exact. I vividly remember sitting at Outback Steakhouse with Jordan and Lilli for my mini-celebration. The three of us were eerily quiet as the fate of our financial future loomed over our heads, the smells of shrimp and dollar bill tips wafting in the warm air of the restaurant around us. Waiters and waitresses bustled by; their jobs were intact. Business people came and went as their dinner marked the end of their own secured workday. But my husband? He had no job. He had no income for which to support his family. And his pride was all but blown to smithereens. What were we going to do? We were panic-stricken, but we knew God somehow had this in the proverbial doggy bag.
      Within a few weeks Jordan was receiving unemployment benefits, and we were, surprisingly, financially comfortable. This was not only due to your gracious tax dollars, but thankfully due to Jordan's responsible nature concerning money and the spending of it. (I'll give tips for that in a later post.) As a result, we were completely debt-free and had a savings cushion for an emergency such as this one.
     After Jo lost his job and we discovered that God did have a bigger plan, we laid back and immersed ourselves in it, allowing His graciousness and peace to wash over our supposed plight. In the time after this all began, Jordan, Lilli, and I fell in love with each other and God all over again. Since Jordan was home every day we were able to spend more time together as a family, and more time with God. Gradually, our music started to unfold, and Jordan's realization of God's call on his life and music came to fruition as he surrendered to it unconditionally.
      That spring, our "adopted son" Tyler Jones introduced us to a young man named Eric "Rico" Acosta. By summer's end, Rico was also adopted into the Griffin family. The two boys spent almost every single day at our house, at Grandma's pool, and sometimes they even spent the night, too tired to drive home. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning playing guitars and making music, as they both led worship with us for our then youth group. They embraced Lilli as their own and we had an amazing summer . . .the best ever, in fact. Our music was growing; our relationships with God's people were growing; we were growing in Him. And God was opening our eyes to the never failing newness and freshness of His love letter to us.
      By December 28, exactly one year later, Jordan was hired with Whitfield County DFCS in the food stamp division. While it certainly wasn't his dream job, it would put him back in the workforce and provide insurance for us, which is kind of imperative to the "disabled" family.
      Jordan is a spiritually challenging man at times. I always said when I was younger, "I will know the man I'm gonna marry because he will make me want to be a better person." Jordan certainly fills that role well as he leads me in this marriage. I am a trusting human and I trust Jordan and my God completely. My understanding of my Creator's unchanging hand is far beyond what it should be at my still infantile state, humanly and spiritually. I have seen Him move the mountains for me before. Why wouldn't He now?
       Several events have happened since the start of 2013 that provoked earth-shattering tremors in my soul. They caused my mind to wander off into the barren woods occupied only by the terror that planted them and the deceit that fertilizes them. With every step, our legs have been snagged and clawed at by the weeds and thorns that thrive on the excrement left behind by the malicious, forged from the enmity on which they dine.We most recently went through a trying and traumatizing experience that neither one of us will soon be forgetting. In the midst of this hurricane, I watched Jordan fall on his face daily at his Master's feet begging for guidance. God always provided. Every morning he would wake up, overcome with emotion for God's people and the will He has for us all, His church, the Body. I'd look to him for comfort during my part in this and he was always willing to guide me, taking my hand and insuring the safety of our family. Spiritually attacked on all sides, we felt the weight of evil's hand compressing us, as the air from our lungs was violently blown from our chests day after day with new horrifying discoveries. Night seemed endless as we both tossed and turned, our bodies and minds never ceasing to find anything but restlessness, instead receiving the blackness and nightmares that were clamoring after us. We could only lay together and pray for the safety of our child and our loved ones as the battle raged. We'd never been a part of such devastating and tormenting spiritual warfare. We felt like God had turned His back on us. . . but we knew better, so we praised Him anyway. And when He gave the signal for us to move on from the situation, we followed His careful instructions: GO....and don't look back.
      The battle stopped and the eerie calm after the storm filled our ears. The silence was so loud, we found ourselves begging for noise. . .anything to know that we were alive. . .anything to know that God hadn't left us. For months we've sat staring into space, finding no comfort in anything but one another. For months we've drifted in and out of spiritual sleep and the benumbing comfort of darkness, not having the energy to deal with the scars left by the previous fencing match of the soul.
      Suddenly, God's beautiful voice broke through the fog and His light pierced the darkness over the waters.
      Jordan was sponsored to go on an Emaus Walk by our friends Kris and Jeanna Rogers. This "trip to the Woods" in Cleveland, Tennessee would be a weekend branded on Jordan's soul for eternity. While there, Jordan found himself in the heart of our Savior again, as he spent four days drenched in the Word, prayer, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Upon his return, I noticed an immediate and evident change in my husband. That first night home, we sat on our bed and reached a new level of communication with each other and more importantly with our Father, interceding for each other and this ministry of a marriage in prayer like we never have before. The chains that were weighing down my fragile heart were lifted as the encouragement of my husband ushered me to the forgiveness of others and the release of my overbearing burden into my Savior's hands.
      As we prayed, we realized even more clearly what steps we were to take next. Jordan and I had been praying for over a year about moving forward on our faith in God, as in, moving ahead on nothing but faith, friends. Think Indian Jones and The Last Crusade type faith. Or hey, let's try some Biblical faith: Abraham, Jonah, Joshua, Moses, Esther, Hannah, Hezzekiah, Samuel, Paul, the 12 Disciples, and then there's that guy, what's His name? Oh, yeah. Jesus.
      Our instructions from God were clear. We were to "drop our nets and follow Him." Really, just how different are we all from the disciples? Aren't we a modern-day version of them?
      Jordan called me the day he'd made up his mind to drop his net, count it all as loss, and follow the Master whole-heartedly. He'd written his resignation email to his supervisor as this was how they communicated since she works in Atlanta, and he'd been staring at it for 30 minutes when he called me.
      "I'm ready to send this," he told me. "Just tell me I'm doing the right thing, Brandi."
      "Only God can tell you that, baby, but I don't believe He'd give you such a burden for ministry and following His will if it weren't the right thing to do."
      He waited another 30 minutes and I sent a text saying, "Send it. Let's do this."
      So he turned in his notice to DFCS, knowing that nothing was waiting for him but God's hand.
      The next 24 hours were insane. We were elated and terrified. It was a spiritual and a bipolar-type experience. But we continued to pray and trust in God, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
      Two days later, Jordan received a phone call from Claris Networks out of Knoxville, Tennessee. A few weeks before, a teacher of mine sent me a job posting for Jordan. The two of us had told him of Jordan's need and desire for a new job, and I had spoken with (Mr. Reece) several times about our passion for Jesus and music/worship ministry. The moment my email buzzed with Mr. Reece's email, Jordan and I read it and he applied for the job. There were three options for relocation concerning the position: Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville. Jordan simply said, "Choose Nashville. Why not. What have we got to lose." It wasn't a question.
      Claris interviewed Jordan the day they called him via telephone. Two days later he met with his interviewer, Dustin, in Chattanooga. A week later, he was on the road to Knoxville to meet the president of the company.
      And we waited. This process took almost a month from beginning to end. While he was waiting on Claris, Jordan interviewed for a job with Oakwood Cafe here in Dalton. They wanted to hire him immediately, but we held out for Claris. Oakwood held out for us. Finally, Claris called and offered Jordan the position, but the pay was too small for us to risk moving to Nashville for so little. We knew God wanted exceedingly and abundantly more for us. After more prayer, Jordan counter-offered the company. He would work in Chattanooga for $5k more than their original offer, or he would work in Nashville for $10k more than the original. He wouldn't settle for less due to insurance and the rise in living expenses in the city that we would have to pay. Dustin, his interviewer, told Jo that it probably wouldn't work, but the company would keep him in mind for future positions. He would run it by the president and be back in touch the following day. So we prayed again and we were specific: "God, if this isn't meant to be, they won't meet these exact numbers You've given us."
      While sitting in my Victorian Literature class the very next day, discussing the sacrifice of Jesus in Rossetti's "Goblin Market," my phone buzzed with a text from Jo: "You need to call me NOW. I think God wants us in Nashville." I was blown away.
      Claris accepted the counter-offer. They agreed to give him the first salary while he trains in Chattanooga for the next three months; upon relocating to Nashville, they will raise it and meet his second salary. God went above and beyond. Don't ya just love it when He goes out of His way for His babies? Wow. . .what an awesome God!
      Today, Jordan received his new offer letter and called his new boss, Dustin, to accept the position.
      Throughout this process we have considered many different changes that will have to take place. For one, Lilli and I have to go to school. I am proud to say that as of two weeks ago, I was accepted into Lipscomb University in Nashville. I am beside myself with God's surprises. LU also has a private Christian school that we are working on for Lilli. It's on the same campus as the university and is modeled almost exactly like CHS.
      While we still have much we are praying about, God has made it more than evident the path He wills for us to journey on our steps to making Him famous. We know this is going to lead us to the right place and time for our music ministry. Today, Jordan spoke with Dustin and finally told him of our leap of faith. Dustin, who is also a Christian and worship leader told Jo that he needed that nugget of encouragement today. Then he said when he went to the president with the counter-offer, he just knew she wasn't going to take it. But instead, she looked at Dustin and asked, "Do you like him? Do you want to build a team around him in Nashville?" Dustin answered yes, and the president said to give Jordan what he wants.
      Friends, this isn't about the money, the job or position, the raise, or really even the move. It's simply about faith in what God can do if we just ask and accept the gift. He tells us in Jeremiah that He knows the plans He has for us that are to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future. Later on, He beckons us to call to Him and He'll show us great and unsearchable things we don't already know. All we have to do is ask, folks, then move out of His way and let Him shine.
      Jordan has kept reminding me of how God made the sun stand still for 24 hours for Joshua; of how He made the shadows on the steps move back ten times for Hezekiah. If he can do that, which involves a little more manipulating than green paper with a dead guy's face plastered to it, surely He can provide a way in other areas of life. After all, He not only created the ways, He created the life. We firmly believe that God's hand is all over this situation; we firmly believe that He's making our sun stand still so we can follow Him wherever He leads.
      Please join us in prayer as we transition over the next few months. We still have certain requests that we don't doubt God will meet: we need a place to live, I need financial aid for school, we have to find a place for our sweet Lilli and we also need peace and comfort for her little spirit and heart. This is going to be difficult because she loves her school and friends so much. We also need for this to be as smooth a transition as possible for my health since we'll be moving a couple of weeks before school starts. Pray for our family to be able to find a church family quickly; we've visited one church so far and it's looking promising, but we want to be exactly where God wants us and where He can use us. Please pray for our parents as this will also be tough for them, but we are reminding them that Nashville is only 2.5 hours up the road, PRAISE THE LORD! We are scared. Nervous. Anxious. Excited. Elated. Overwhelmed. But most of all, we're grateful. And we cannot wait to see what God has up His sleeve next.