Hi my sweet friends,
I've deliberated for a few weeks now on how to share this info with y'all. It's been a difficult past few weeks, probably some of the most difficult we've had, and I have been processing with the Lord.
Many of you have checked on us, asking how California is. And well, in short, we are not there anymore. We drove the arduous 49-hour drive out there (hello 8,000 feet of elevation), encountered many hardships along the way that left us fatigued and not a little bit traumatized, and, once we got there, we were met with an overwhelming lack of peace instead of this sense of relief at having arrived at the "promised land". It didn't make sense. We tried to wait it out a few days (5 to be exact), called home for wise counsel, prayed and asked the Lord for peace and assurance that we were to stay, yet the lack of peace increased all the more. Knowing that "He leads us beside still waters", we know it is not in the cards for us as Christians to stay where we do not sense God's peace (Col. 3:15, Isaiah 55:12). He always gives us peace for where He is leading, even if circumstances are hard. I, myself, have moved over 20 times in my life (yep, I'm not exaggerating), and I am accustomed to the feelings of shock at being in a new place, needing to have an adjustment period, etc. So I can attest that the feelings we felt were not those necessary moving jitters. No, this was strangely and surreally different, a feeling like we were not in the right place for us.
We realized that to stay at this point, feeling what we felt, would've only been to do what looked good and made sense in people's eyes. Does this make sense to our human minds that desire a rational path? Absolutely not. Redding is a wonderful place and Bethel is a wonderful church. We were excited to go there. We felt led to go out there. We don't understand why (How can we understand the mind of the Lord? 1 Cor. 2:16), and we don't have all the answers to all the questions that we, ourselves, have and that others may have (I now kind of understand a teeny tiny bit the questions Job must've had when his life completely fell apart and didn't make sense; read the book of Job in the Bible). All we know is that we truly 100% felt led by God to go out there and we truly 100% felt led by God to then leave and come back home. Our hearts were postured towards complete obedience and surrender in both the going and the leaving, and we know you can never go wrong with that.
For the past few years, I've committed my life to being vulnerable with others, to "boasting in my weakness" that Christ's power might be seen through my brokenness. Prior to this commitment, I did ministry for 10 years from a place of pretending to have it all together, from a place of making people feel like I was way up high (Pharisee lifestyle) and that my Christianity was one that was unattainable and achieved by my own self-righteousness and legalism. Oh, how great was my fall from this place, and Jesus was so gracious to pick me up and make me see the great salvation that was purchased for me, that I didn't have to do anything to attain it except for admitting my weakness and receiving His grace. Since that season of breakthrough from wrong theology, I've committed myself to sharing the real and the hard and the raw because I truly know that's the example I wish I would've had as a young, Christian girl growing up in an environment where people felt they had to hide their shortcomings, fears, struggles. People need to see real. They need people to relate to in the struggle. They need to know they aren't alone. They need to see that Jesus came for THEM. Yes, them. Yes, for the broken, imperfect, struggling, weak. And I hope to always be that person who willingly sacrifices my pride so that my life can point to the greatness of Jesus in my weakness and lead others to HIM, not myself. 'Cause I'm human, after all.
So, friends, here I am: very broken, but so confident in my God, that He is so near me, so for me, so proud of our obedience even when we don't understand; not understanding, but so trusting in His ways that are so much higher than mine; feeling like I'd like to have answers for myself and others, but surrendering through fire like Job did in the midst of unanswered questions and people all around who had their opinions.
Like the missionary journeys of Paul on a map, I'm learning the life of following the Spirit most always will not equate to a linear path and will not make sense to human reasoning (John 3:8). It just won't! Things will most probably never go the way you had "thought" they would (because hello! We are following a great, big, amazing God whom we cannot even begin to understand or fathom! Isaiah 55:8-9). If you can fully wrap your mind around God and His ways, then props! Haha because to me, He's a great big mystery and I love chasing Him in that place of wonder! Our job is to trust Him and obey (Proverbs 3:5) and to keep our hearts free from offense at God and at others who may not understand along the way (Acts 24:16). No small task, to be sure! May it be enough as we go through life and its trials and questions (that have been promised to come) that the LORD knows our way (Job 23:20). HE KNOWS YOU! What the heck, y'all! How amazing that we are each seen by God.
So all that to say, we are back in Baton Rouge, excited to see what the Lord has next (because we KNOW He is doing something big through all of this!). We are learning to trust His process in us and to acknowledge Him in all our ways. God worked all the details out miraculously for us to come back home immediately after we felt the release to come back. (Like we're talking impossible stuff happened at the perfect time with zero resistance.) It was surreal how led by Him it all was. We would not trade this experience for anything because we know the deep truths we are learning from this experience are eternal and can never be traded for anything this world has to offer.
In college, Jesus spoke these words to me: "Bristen, many people write sermons. But what if I make your life a sermon?" I remember being so struck by the weight of those words, and my heart said yes. Little did I know the journey that would ensue as a result. But I still say yes.
I'll leave you with a quote I love from Chronicles of Narnia about Aslan (symbolic of JESUS, in the rare case you didn't know): "Of course He isn't safe, but He's good."
He. Is. Good.
He. Is. Good.
He. Is. Good.
He. Is. Good.
Do you hear me?! He is GOOD!
Repeat this 100000+ times because HE IS! And this world and the enemy will do all they can to convince you otherwise. As Oswald Chambers once said, "The root of every sin is the suspicion that God is not good." But oh my friend, He is good. And we can trust Him. I can trust Him. Even right now, in my struggle, I hope you can see and know that I can trust God. And you can too!
Some have asked what is the most helpful thing for us right now. And I can honestly say that what we need most is for people to not ask a gazillion questions, because we, ourselves, do not fully understand. What we have found to be the most helpful is for people to just say they love us, hug us, and to say they are so glad we are back. And encouragement is always welcome. :) So that's what you can do, knowing that you are being the most helpful. :)
I love you guys, and we are more confident now than ever of the amazing people who have our backs and the friends and family we are proud to call our own. Y'all are the best, truly. Thanks for your understanding and for reading!