That is the word that sums up all the feelings, thoughts, and prayers about our experience here at the beach these last five years.
Don’t get me wrong, this time of pastoral ministry hasn’t come without heartbreak and hardships as part of the package. Hardly! We’ve experienced slander, loss, stalkers, physical threats, disappointments, failures, and things that have made us feel the seriousness of the battle waged among spiritual forces. Yet…we’ve been overwhelmed with our Father’s care through the hardest of days. When the pain has seemed too great, or the trial too hard, He has faithfully carried us through the storms, and shown us His tenderness in amazing ways.
Those hard things though (that I’m pretty sure everyone experiences) haven’t negated the fact that God brought us HERE…of all the other places we could have gone. Not only to a community that needs His grace and truth, but also to one of the most beautiful paradises I’ve ever experienced. We’re spoiled!! Ocean, reefs, mountains, forests, rivers, wildlife, amazing sunsets and stunner weather…it is an outdoorsy family’s playground!!
We build sandcastles and driftwood forts; we hike amazing trails, we fish, we surf, we camp, we live a constant adventure. And we’ve had more fun than I ever imagined this “gloomy” place could provide. I am beyond thrilled every day that I get to wake up and breathe the perfectly clear air, HERE!
And that small town fear I had? In reality, the simplicity and quietness of life here is absolutely priceless. Not only do we feel like we live on a vacation, we love that our kids are missing out on all the crime, commercialism, and propaganda of city life. Instead, they enjoy horses riding through town, have everything within walking distance, everyone knows their name (and what they did last night), and they see their friends everywhere they go! They couldn’t be happier! It’s been a great place to raise our family!
The congregation that welcomed us with a warm embrace back in January 2010, fixed up that moldy parsonage and made it a haven for us. They won my heart (and they still have it!) with their consideration of our family, my likes, and making this as comfortable of a place as they could – before we moved. This included paint, carpet, a new ceiling, staining all the wood in the house, and on and on. I’ve learned over the years that that’s just the kind of people they are. They have loved us, accepted us, been patient with us, …even when our naked babies run wild through the parking lot *sheepish grin*, or we don’t do everything the way it was done before we came. They’ve helped bear our burdens, encouraged us during low seasons, watched our kiddos so we could date each other, shared of themselves with gifts from their wallets, homes, and hearts. When we consider all the ways we’ve been blessed by the people here, gratitude overwhelms.
There are the great friendships that have happened too. These loved-ones walk through our days and all the nitty-gritty messy of our crazy life. They hang out late, talk life, love our kids, join our loud dance-offs, and walk the hard hills with us. They are ones we prayed desperately for, and who fill our lives with good things, and keep us smiling even on tough days. These years in our little corner of the world have cemented the need for good friends into us and we are overwhelmed with God’s provision for those kind of relationships not only far away, but right here where we live.
We didn’t know what to expect when God directed us away from my family, friends, church family, and all things familiar. But He did…and we’ve found satisfaction and contentment trusting Him to use us, grow us, change us, and even overwhelm us with His goodness.
Five years is a short period perhaps in the scope of an average lifespan, but it’s made up of a whole lot of days, and each of those has been one that God’s grace was sufficient, and so I’ll take every opportunity and milestone I can to remember….
God is good…
…ALL the time!
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”
All professional photos courtesy the lovely, talented, patient, kid-friendly Applewood Photography.