I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel today. Part of me was super excited, one part sad, and the other part kind of numb and exhausted. I wasn’t sure what thoughts would run through my mind when I walked out of the back doors for the last time as a full-time employee at SafePlace.
Many people know, but many may not, that I have stepped down from my role as Assistant Director of SafePlace. Additionally, I will no longer work at 4KIDS of South Florida. My last day at the shelter was this evening’s shift (well technically yesterday) and now I am beginning a new chapter in life with and organization called OneHope (www.onehope.net). Go ahead and say it… “traitor”… I know you want to! Sometimes I do feel a little bit like that, and then that is when God smacks me into reality and reminds me that this is part of the plan. Some of you know my story and the biblical references behind it. For those that don’t, here is the cliff notes version:
In December of 2010, I prayed that the Lord would move me in accordance to his will, even if it meant giving up the career path that I was most passionate – Higher Education. I applied for a position with 4KIDS in January of 2011, and accepted it in February of 2011. I start working in two different parts of the ministry, which would coincide with each other, in March and April of 2011. While trying to figure out what to do with my home and two cats since I would be working in a unique area of the ministry that required me to move, the following verses were given to me in several sermons and devotionals: Luke 9:23-25; 57-62 and 1Kings 19:19-21.
I knew I had to leave it all behind if I wanted to be a part of what God was doing next. This was a choice. I could have stayed in Higher Education and would have been just fine. The problem is if you don’t act when God starts making you restless, it will drive you crazy! I was definitely hungry for whatever adventure was next and so I gave away my kitties… I miss them sooooooo much! I left the house. I gave away almost everything I had. When I moved to the ministry house, I only had what could fit into my car and even most of those things I left with the house for their use once I moved out.
The Lord blessed me at 4KIDS with an extended family that gave me the community I needed and wanted. I have grown so much spiritually and the Lord used 4KIDS to impact me in a way I never would have imagined. I had the opportunity to see young women grow in maturity as Christian mothers. I was able to license over 12 foster families, many of which have adopted (and the number is counting!). I Have seen countless stories of redemption and healing at their genesis in our shelter. One would believe that this was enough, but the restlessness returned. It actually crept up on me in August of 2012, but I kept pushing through. It didn’t feel like it was time for me to step out again. Come May of 2013, the story was different. I was at a pivotal decision-making point: I am ready to leave Florida, is now the time? The answer was a swift “No” and the Lord confirmed that through the book of Nehemiah, most importantly chapter 6 in verses 3-4:
“… so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.”
I was doing something that God had called me to do and I needed to see it through. If you continue reading in Nehemiah, you will learn that he stayed in Jerusalem for 12 years, which was a long time after the wall had been rebuilt. October 8, 2013 will mark the 8th anniversary of my move to South Florida. The Lord knows that there were several times that I looked to move on, but I was called to stay and wait. Even though I decided I was to continue on here in Florida, I was still not sure about what to do here or what was to become of my time with 4KIDS. There were a few opportunities that the Lord seemed to want me to really evaluate and decide if moving in that direction was something I really wanted. Again, I believe I had a choice, so I counted the cost for the next two months and the Lord allowed me to see the realities of the price I would pay for each choice.
In August of this year, I was presented with a new opportunity and the Lord confirmed it was time to walk in that direction with 2 Kings 2. It was actually a part of my devotional one day, and what was very interesting was it spoke about everyone having an “Elijah” in their life that would be taken away at some point. It was an experience that would have to come. We are all prepared to be sent out to be disciples and we have to be pushed out of the nest! 4KIDS of South Florida has been my Elijah during this season of my life, just like the other organizations leading up to my most current work home. This was when I knew it was time to take a step in faith, despite what others around me thought or said. I had to act with boldness and confidence in what the Lord had been showing me all along.
Every position I have held since college has lead me up to where I am now, and God intricately crafted my development with each experience. I am so thankful for the people I have met along the way working with Georgia State University, Julian LeCraw, University of Miami, and now 4KIDS of South Florida. It reminds me that we serve an awesome God that loves us so much to give us wonderful, yet challenging and sometimes daunting, opportunities.
The biggest lesson for me is to be flexible enough to allow God to move you around. We become very attached to things that we do and invest ourselves to the point where the Lord sometimes has to pry us away. What we must remember is that the Lord is always bringing up leaders. If we stay in a place that the Lord is trying to move us away from, then we could be preventing someone else from stepping up and being used as the Lord sees fit in that role or better. We would be in disobedience!
As I begin this next chapter, I am excited, nervous, surprisingly overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility, and hopeful. I am stepping aside to let someone else enjoy the spoils of God’s nature and his miraculous blessings. Besides, I can’t hog all of the excitement! I am surrounded by great people and I know that the Lord has paved the way. I know my story sounds kind of Polyanna-ish, but I will be the first to tell you that this has been the most difficult two and a half years I have EVER experienced. I think I have cried and been brought to the point of brokenness more than I want to recount. It has been hard, and it has been a huge test of my faith.
Pastor Doug (4KIDS of South Florida President and Family Pastor for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale) mentioned in the devotional on Wednesday that “The dream is free, but the journey isn’t.” We may have visions of Kumbayah sing-alongs with delicious s’mores when we are thinking about what we will do in our next mission, but we don’t realize what it takes to have that experience – it will cost us our lives. While this has been an expensive adventure for me, I am glad that the Lord allowed me to invest in this experience because I have become wealthy with spiritual and emotional dividends.
The Lord be praised, him alone be praised!