I sat down tonight to write this post, and I honestly had to think for a second about how to create a blog post. It’s been so long!!! I’m sorry I left you all high and dry last week. The first week of school was a doozey in and of itself, but we had a nasty virus run through our family that took each of us out of commission at different times, and left me playing Florence Nightingale all week. This weekend it was my turn, but I seem to have escaped with just a sore throat. Fingers crossed it stays that way!
On Saturday morning, I had the huge privilege of speaking to 130 women about answering God’s call at my church’s annual Women’s Breakfast. It was a really great morning, and I was so glad that my mom and grandma came down to attend with me. It was nice to have a little cheering corner while I spoke. And it was nice to have someone capture this one picture:
I thought today I would share my remarks with you all. Most of you probably have heard the story of our move from Connecticut to Florida, and many of you were following along right beside me while we went through the most stressful time of our lives. I’ve shared often about that experience, but until this weekend, I don’t think I’d ever looked at that experience as answering God’s call before. Looking back, though, I’m sure that’s what it was…
Good morning. My name is Katie Brown. My husband, Chris, and I have been members here for three years. I am a mom to two-year-old Gracie, and four-year-old Michael. By day, I am an eighth grade language arts teacher. It’s nice to meet you all. I am so honored to be speaking with you this morning. Never would I have imagined standing on a stage in front of so many women, talking about my faith. But I have prayed this week that if this is what God was calling me to do, then maybe he could also provide me with teleprompters like the President has. I have to say, my faith is a little shaken this morning because of the obvious lack of presidential prompters. Let’s all pray, then, that if God can’t provide me with a teleprompter, then he at least provide me with a clear voice this morning.
My husband, Chris, and I have been together since we were 15 years old. We grew up in the Florida panhandle, and the summer after we graduated from undergraduate, we moved to Connecticut where he began graduate school at Yale University. We loved Connecticut, and ended up buying our first house there right after he graduated three years later. We both had wonderful, high paying jobs, great friends, and a bigger house than anyone else our age. We were going into Manhattan for dinners with friends, to concerts at Carnegie Hall, and to see Broadway shows. For a 20-something couple who started out barely being able to afford rent, it was quite a life. We were still faithful people, but we hadn’t found a church to attend regularly in the six years we had been in Connecticut. Truth be told, we hadn’t really looked all that hard. And so our faith continued to sit quietly inside the little box that we put it in and only took out on the rare Sunday mornings that we attended church.
In our seventh year in Connecticut, Chris and I became a family with the birth of our son, Michael. It only took a few months of motherhood before I began to feel homesick in Connecticut, and I longed to be closer to our families back in Florida. Chris and I prayed about our move. We prayed for jobs to work out, for a nice place to live, for a smooth transition. And I felt God calling us home. Everything we had in Connecticut was wonderful and we had worked hard to create it, but it all paled in comparison to our sweet baby Michael, and I felt God calling me to a life with more substance.
We moved that summer to Orlando, and everything fell apart. My job fell through, leaving me to face unemployment at a terrible time in our country’s economy. The house we had rented for six months turned out to be in an unsafe part of town. Our money ran out about four months into our move. We had no health insurance and, in the middle of it all, I found myself unexpectedly and untimely pregnant again.
What we had originally seen as God’s calling had turned out to be a horrific experience and as my husband and I worked to get some semblance of feet back on the ground again, we both began to wonder if perhaps we had heard God wrong. We thought of our life that we had left behind in Connecticut and we both faced a terrible realization that we had made a mistake in moving to Florida.
One night, we went out to dinner at a friend’s house to celebrate the fact that I had finally landed a job interview and that things might actually start to look up soon. We came home that night to find that our rental house had been broken into while we were gone. They vandalized the house and stole all of our electronics and my jewelry, along with any sense of optimism, security, and the last shred of hope that I had been holding onto. And so I did the only thing I knew to do, I fell to my knees.
I remember my prayer vividly that night. I told God that I didn’t understand why he had called us here. I didn’t know what he wanted us to do or what I was supposed to be learning. But I knew that all we had left was our trust in him. That was it. He had literally taken everything else away from us.
And that’s when it clicked.
He had taken everything else away from us.
Could that have been God’s calling? Could God have called us out of a life of abundance and into a life dependent on faith? Was that God’s calling? Not to a specific place, but to a specific kind of life? A life completely dependent on him?
In the three years that we have lived here in Florida, Chris and I have gotten our family back on its feet through prayer. We have learned to pray for EVERYTHING in our lives. For jobs and homes and health and joy and peace. We both ended up in jobs that we never would have chosen for ourselves, but that once God put them in our paths, we realized this was what we were created to be. We have bought a home and are continuing to make it our own day by day and prayer by prayer. Our paychecks are not what they ever were in Connecticut, and our lifestyle doesn’t even resemble our life there. But every need we have is met and then exceeded in ways we usually don’t even think to ask for. We have traded lavish expenses for family around our dinner table, and our beautiful, impeccably clean home in Connecticut for a fixer upper with Legos on the floor and the occasional action figure hidden under my pillow when I lay down at night.
And, you know, we couldn’t imagine our life any other way.
In the years since our move, my life has changed in such drastic ways that it could only be the hand of God. I have learned that when God calls me, it doesn’t always mean he is going to call me into perfect circumstances. Just because something is blessed by the Lord doesn’t mean it is easy. He promises us a path for the faithful, but he doesn’t promise that the path will be smooth. And I’m okay with that because I know now that the stumbles and challenges we might face in answering God’s call are not necessarily obstacles, but are actually mile markers on our journey.
When I heard the phrase “God’s calling,” I used to picture God pointing me down a path in the jungle. This path was wide and safe with walls that protected me and was lined with bright lights and angels pointing me in the right direction. That’s how I would know it was God’s call. Because the path was so clear that it couldn’t be anything else but God. I’ve learned instead that God’s calling isn’t quite so obvious or easy sometimes.
Now, when I hear that phrase, I instead picture peering into a jungle with vines and foliage so thick I can’t see more than foot in front of me. With mosquitos and bugs swarming, and with the sounds of animals and the call of birds squawking too close for comfort. And I picture Christ standing right beside me with his arm around my shoulder. I picture him turning to me and saying, “Okay, are you ready to walk through with me?” And then we begin to forge our own path, tripping and sometimes falling along the way as we encounter all sorts of pitfalls. But every time I feel afraid or become anxious as I wonder how much longer I can make it, I feel Christ squeeze my hand and whisper in my ear, “You are right where I have called you, and I am right here with you.”
Faithfulness ain’t for the weak, y’all. Sitting in a church pew on Sundays and praising our Lord is kids stuff. But living a life that is dependent on faith, even and especially when it feels like we are standing alone in a jungle of disappointment and chaos and confusion, that is answering the call. Pushing ahead when all we want to do is turn back, that is answering the call. Praying prayers that say, “I don’t understand what I’m doing or where I am supposed to be going,” that is answering the call, friends.
God’s call used to mean to me that God had opened the path where he wanted me to walk. But now I know that God’s calling in my life is whatever path it takes to draw me closer to him. When I step closer to Him, become more dependent on him, put my trust only in him, THAT is when I am answering God’s call. And he continues to be ever faithful throughout my journey.
And all God’s people said, “Amen.”