After leaving the religious group, we had to start over – new house, new job, new home town, new community. We ended up in Storm Lake for Jay’s engineering job.
The craziness began about a year later when Jay quit that engineering job in order to launch his own construction businesses. (It could be argued that the craziness never stopped for us, but that’s another story.) I rather liked the steady paychecks and comfortable living, but Jay was geared for work outside the cubicle. So, we began flipping houses in various neighborhoods of Storm Lake.
We learned an important principle in those days, one that would become foundational for us: bridge-builders have to be intentional about relationships.
Otherwise, it’s easy to write off the beauty of a relationship as a mere job, client, coworker, child, number.
Flipping houses became a God-ordained means for relationships with a wide range of people across Storm Lake neighborhoods.
And, that first flip changed our entire outlook on the business. The neighbors picked up tools and asked to help. They cooked for us. The kids all played together. We started to drop by their homes on off-hours to catch up. And we came to love that block of houses as if it were our own stomping grounds. After that, we intentionally looked for houses in certain areas and saw flipping as an excuse to meet people there. We’d arrive with our kids and work together on the house, making a big ol’ scene. We’d end up hanging out with the neighbors, eating together, hearing their stories, and feeling a bit sad when we had to actually sell the place and move on.
Perhaps we were a bit lonely ourselves, relating easily to the loss and not belonging that were present in their stories. All were immigrants or refugees, after all. Or maybe we, the unlikely folks just excommunicated and condemned in our religious circle, were in the perfect spot to understand the Gospel – that the good news of Jesus Christ that brings the outsiders in and makes much of His love.
And so, flipping houses wouldn’t have been my first idea on how to lay foundations for a ministry. But, God loves to pick up the routine and average kindling in order to start a fire for His glory.
As bridge-builders, we must intentionally train ourselves to look beyond what seems insignificant and unimportant in order to see holy purpose.
To read more on the divine purpose in the everyday, here is a post from October 2014:
Five years ago this month, we moved our family into this half-done house on Seneca Street. What was supposed to be a house flip had flopped. As a last resort, we settled the house on this very-last-resort-piece of land on this dead-end street, and we moved our family in.
Oh, how little we understood then about God’s ways and plans for this place, for our lives.
So, today we look back to that October – five crazy, busy, amazing years ago. How did it all begin anyway? I’m not sure we can even pin down a complete answer to that question. But, I do know a couple things are true of this story:
First, we were living on answered prayers – the faithful supplications that so many of you had prayed for this community before we ever got here.
Clearly, God had set something in motion, and we were just a piece of it all, together with you.
And, next, it required surrender. That much I know for certain.
Yes, how well I remember. I had come to a point where I desperately wanted to shut my door and feel justified with saying no. I really wanted to. I was already overwhelmed as a mom of four, and I could’ve filled a notebook with reasons why I was not equipped, eager, or excited about saying “yes” to what God was doing around us.
But, you might argue, you were already considering mission work. True enough. But, it wasn’t the idea of serving that I disliked; it was the idea of doing it here. And in my home. And, it would mean laying down my schedule and my daily life.
Somehow, it seemed far more noble and dramatic to do all that over there.
And, sometimes it’s just easier to think about surrendering our someday rather than our everyday.
So, I debated my points valiantly with God. I made sure He understood my reasons for dismissing it all. But, then it happened anyway, after much justifying and wrestling with God over it.
In a very everyday moment while at the kitchen sink scrubbing dishes, I surrendered.
I laid down my yes and gave in mentally what God was doing around us. There was no angelic choir or flashes of light, but there was a quiet understanding and calm that He was going to provide and meet our needs. And, my heart, tired of holding back, finally decided to just agree with God already.
Nothing real noble or dramatic. Just a feeble, “OK, fine, have Your way then.”
Jay has his own story of finally giving in to the divine swirling of events. But, for me – God met me where I was as a mom with young kids and just asked me to lay down my everydays, my mom routine, my average days.
And, friends, guess what?
Apparently God’s interested in glorifying Himself through everyday people – including grumbling, dish-washing mommies.
See, I had nothing stellar to offer, other than being super proficient at nose-wiping, snack-making, and bandage-applying. But, He’s good with that. God took that hard-won yes of mine and ran with it.
So, friends, don’t look for your purpose beyond the horizons of your current season. It’s this. It’s today. It’s in the here and now. Will you let go of your yes and place it in His capable hands?
After all, those hands, the same ones that paint rainbows and mold mountaintops, can create beautiful things with everyday surrenders and faithful prayers.
But, it will mean inconvenience. It will mess with your schedule and your priorities. And, it can never be only one-time decision at the kitchen sink. That’s just how it all begins. Surrender is a practice, one we all continue in day after day.
So, take a look around you, right where you are. God’s not looking for your big plans for someday. No, He wants to shine in the routine of your life and in your average days, to those people you see all the time. He’s good with that – especially all that.
And, God will take your yes and run with it.
This month’s series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like certain individuals who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it’s not a series about our story; it’s a series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story.
If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it’s because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it’s because that’s how we were rescued – by God, through average people.