To many, it may look like we turned our back on traditional church and ministry life, or family, even friends. Maybe you think in some way we’ve fallen away from everything we were taught, because our life no longer fits in a neat little box. And nothing, absolutely NOTHING could be further from the truth.
We are tighter with Jesus than ever, we are closer to each other, we are more fulfilled. We have (very) quietly been pouring into others on a daily basis in a way that has humbled & wrecked both of us. Probably forever. I’m so good with that. There have been tears of joy as we watch some succeed and tears of sheer sorrow as others fail so magnificently that it seems made for TV, but we still hope against hope, that their stories will still have a happily ever after.
We haven’t posted anything on social media, we haven’t told a ton of people, we were waiting for just the right time. We have recently begun to open up and share with family and friends what we have been up to for the past 9 months. We had no interest in telling people the ministry we were doing just to validate that we were still “saved” and “ministering.” Confidentiality is a huge part of what we now do. It honestly felt wrong to tell anyone. We knew at some point, we would share our whole story and then finally the world would understand how we got here.
But, none of it will make sense if you don’t know the truth behind what brought us to the place we’re at now.
3 years ago, we made a crazy, life-altering decision. We were going to leave behind everything we had known for YEARS, and move our family from the Bay Area up to tiny, cold, secluded Eureka, California. It seemed sudden to most, including ourselves. It probably seemed extreme and rushed to people on the outside looking in. Trust me, it didn’t make a lot of sense to us, either.
We were leaving a church where we had been involved in ministry for 17 years. We were leaving the only church and city our kids had ever known. We were pulling them from their schools and friends…even worse, we were leaving our oldest son behind. It broke my heart. Leaving Devante, our friends, our church family, how could it be easy? We tried to put on a happy face. We had been through so much and we KNEW this was the right step for our family, but it still hurt. It was scary, unsure, sad & sometimes down-right depressing as we began to tell our friends, family and pack up our house. The house that only a few months before we had been pre-approved to purchase. There were a lot of “God, I trust you, but I don’t like you or your plan,” moments if we’re being completely honest.
What most people didn’t know, is that our lives completely fell apart in the months leading up to our move. And I firmly believe that this was probably (read:definitely) God’s plan for our lives, and we were so focused on doing what we deemed important: ministry, family, church & more ministry, that if our lives hadn’t have fallen apart the last few months we were in San Jose, we most likely would’ve completely missed what God ultimately had in store for us.
We loved our life there. We were involved in youth ministry with our best friends. I was on the worship team and I loved it for the most part. We had been given tons of responsibilities that kept us busy, fulfilled and satisfied. We had no reason to constantly be in prayer about direction for our lives, we had gotten comfortable. I’ve learned the hard way that comfort zones are the very worst place to be. That’s when we relax, we stop striving to be better, we stop relying on God and begin to rely on ourselves because we’ve done the job for so long, we could do it in our sleep and not make a mistake. We think we can get away with praying a little less, loving people a little less and being a little less devoted because we have life and ministry all figured out. It’s dangerous. That’s when burnout and poor judgement begins to take a place in our lives and we do things we wouldn’t normally do, and there are souls at stake when we begin to sleep-walk our way through the ministry.
At the beginning of 2013, God had very plainly spoken to Marcos and said, “get ready to be uncomfortable.” We had no idea it would mean that our lives were going to flip so completely upside down.
At the end of January, my position in the company I was working for ended unexpectedly a year earlier than projected..It was a little worrisome, but I figured something would come along soon enough, after all it always had. If nothing else, plans to buy the house we were living in would just have to be put on hold for a while. But that, my friends, was just the beginning…to make a long story short, by July of that year, everything was falling apart and we were on the verge of losing everything we had: Our house, we had already had to sell our car and were stuck with the ugliest rust bucket you ever saw (talk about HUMBLING), we had no family that had room for us to stay with them, and we became desperate.
You know what increases your prayer life? Losing everything. Watching everything you’ve worked so hard for slip away from you. Not knowing where your next meal will come from or how you will pay for gas to get your kids to and from school. Having to decide which are the most important bills and paying those instead of all of them, and finally, no longer being able to afford rent, and REALLY not being able to afford to move, even to a smaller place. We had to accept the fact that we were about to be homeless with 4 kids. Facing homelessness can open the heart to a lot of questions:
“Why? We’re doing everything we know to do, and yet this is how it’s turning out? What did we do wrong? Why is God angry with us? Why would he allow this to happen?” We were paying our tithe, we were faithful at church, I was steadily looking for work, what were we doing wrong?
And in the interest of complete honesty, it wasn’t the first time. Once before, we were forced to move in with my parents. And again, after that, we found a place to live that wasn’t going to be ready or 2-3 months and we were forced to couch surf with friends and family…for a time, we were even separated from our kids. We had the baby with us, and the older ones were with Marcos’s parents. And by definition, any time you are living in a hotel/motel, couch surfing, forced to stay with friends or family, you are homeless. Homeless does not only mean you live on the street. It’s not fun to admit to homelessness.
And after hours, days and weeks of tears and talks and prayers, we had to admit, maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe there’s a purpose in all of this. Maybe this is pushing us towards something that we never would have done on our own. And as soon as we admitted that and began to open our hearts to a new possibility, thing began to fall into place. Don’t you just love God? When we are stubborn and refuse to hear to his prompting, he finds a way to get us to listen.
I finally opened up to my Grandma about what was going on, and she called me back the next day with an offer…we could live with her for the school year and I could help her take care of my Great-Grandpa and help her after a few surgeries she had coming up. I could help my Aunt by working at her café she had just opened up. If Marcos had to quit his job because of relocation, he was eligible for unemployment. And there was a church up here with a new Pastor and they were trying to establish a youth group and we could help do that…it’s like everything was absolutely, 100% meant to be!!!
Was it perfect?? No. Was it scary? Yes. Saying yes to new things is always scary. Was it uncomfortable? In the worst way!
But the moment we said yes, everything changed. There was a sense of peace that was greater than the discomfort of what we were about to do. And we had everything planned right down to the timetable…we would stay with Grandma for 1 year, we would be the youth pastors and build a youth group for one year, we would then pass the baton to someone new, we would save our money and bring our kids back to their home in the Bay Area…all in one year. We tied it all up in a neat little bow, satisfied with OUR plan.
2 weeks later, we packed up everything we owned and said goodbye to the life we had lived for so long. A month after that we were driving down our little Main Street in town and looked at each other with the same thought, “this is going to be a whole lot longer than one year.” By saying yes with our own agenda, plan & timetable, it had gotten us to the place we belong. By opening our hearts to new things and letting go of our plans, it was going to take us further than we could ever imagine.
Thank goodness we decided to just say, “yes” to God, and thank goodness we decided to ditch our own plan…and thank God that we couldn’t see the future and that everything was about to fall apart one more time to take us to the place we were REALLY meant to be…