Great Expectations

20141219_170838Why don’t things ever turn out the way we pictured them? Have you ever thought it might be because you haven’t dreamed big enough? For us, it seems like every time we get a God dream in our souls, immediately our own great expectations take over. The problem is that often they just aren’t great enough. And what amazes me most about this is how I have to keep learning it over and over and over.

Back in September we had a plan for what our fall and winter would look like on the road. We were going to be in Georgia volunteering at state parks, meeting with churches, and doing some consulting work. However, on September 14 something changed, and we quickly found ourselves making preparations to spend the winter in the Kentucky hills. Everything lined up, and we quickly had a job for Matthew and a campground whose website promised a fun, community feel.So we spent nearly a month traveling (see Are We There Yet? 3 States in 3 Weeks), and when we arrived in Campbellsville, Kentucky on November 9 and checked into our campground, we had great expectations of being constantly surrounded by other campers so that we could meet heaps of new people, listen to their stories, and show them God’s love (that’s why we’re doing this thing after all, right?).

IMG_20141109_160847And on that first day, this is exactly what we found. We met so many people within just a few hours that we quickly lost track of names and details. We heard a story from a young man about how God had saved him from a terrible bicycle accident and 8 month coma some 15 years ago so that now he is a walking testimony. We heard stories from couples who were finding life on the road very expensive, hoping they could make enough money at Amazon to get back home next month and take some time to regroup. We heard stories from a grandmother who wanted to know all about homeschooling because her family back home is struggling and she wants to help. That night as we came in the door all we could say was, “Wow, this is going to be fun!” And I couldn’t help but smile because my expectation was right this time! This was going to be just what I expected!

But the following week an arctic blast of cold weather rushed in, snow quickly followed, with wind chills down to single digits, and then came the rain and mud, with many of the campers (like Matthew) working 10+ hour shifts at all times of the day and night, and all those wonderful opportunities were suddenly not quite so fast and furious. My great expectation of campfires, potlucks, and spontaneous outdoor get-togethers was quickly replaced with the reality of a ghost town campground.

20141117_141609So, finding ourselves in a new and unexpected reality, we decided it was time to ask God for more opportunity — whatever that meant. Thankfully, He reminded us of this scripture: “I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” (2 Corinthians 6 MSG) We decided to open our eyes to all sorts of opportunities and choose to open up our lives in new ways — who cares if it wasn’t what we had planned?! And what has followed has been a month of all sorts of opportunities — all of which are much better than the ones we had in mind.

One of these unexpected opportunities happened on our first trip to the local library where we met a family of 6 who have been traveling the country for the past 18 months. After this first meeting, we started having playdates together, getting to know each other, talking about traveling the country with kids, sharing our God stories while our kids played together, and talking about how God is moving in our hearts – such a Divine appointment that I totally would have missed if I had stayed at the quiet campground feeling sad that it wasn’t what we thought it would be! I truly don’t know what we would have done without making these friends!

We also met a local family who invited us to an outstanding church here in town, and it has been such a blessing to get into great teaching and worship there and get to know people in that way too – again, different and much better than what we expected! Especially since the boys have been able to be a part of their own thing there where they have learned so much and come home asking all sorts of questions and telling us all about the new things they’ve learned.

Also, Matthew has been able to make so many connections with people on breaks at work, which is no small feat when the shift is 5:30PM – 4:30AM, a time when I truly believe only zombies are coherent. And yes, we have been able to meet some other campers at the campground here as well, listening to their stories, and sharing hope with them in whatever small way possible, and we are so thankful for this, even if it’s not in the timing, quantity or avenue that we originally expected.

20141219_165652The best part is that these connections and relationships we’ve started have only just begun. Thankfully, we now live in a time when we can continue to encourage and exchange with our new friends through things like websites, emails, Instagram feeds, Facebook messages, blog posts, video exchanges, and so much more. Just like God used Paul to write letters on his missionary journey that still impact the lives of people today, we can continue to communicate with our friends and those we meet on the road as we continue on this journey, praying that God would use us to encourage them as they seek the God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.

So, as a Christmas gift to ourselves we’ve officially decided – no more of these great expectations. We want to expect great things, for sure, but we also want to make sure that the expectancy doesn’t turn into an expectation that it’s going to be our own way.

“We never want our understanding of God to be limited to what we can perceive within the confines of our limited vision; we want to see Him for how huge He really is.” (Chris Caine) We never want to be so fixed in our own minds about what He will do that we miss what He is actually doing. That is a Christmas gift I really don’t want to misplace!

So we’ll keep praying and following God’s lead, and we’ll do our best to keep our minds and eyes open to all sorts of people in all sorts of places so that we can be ready when someone needs to experience God’s love for them.

20141125_174011But at the end of the day, if this journey is just for the one person or one family who has a new opportunity to respond to God’s stirring in their hearts; if it’s just for that one person who has been discouraged with religion for years and needed to hear that God is longing for a real connection to them just as they are longing for Him;  if it’s just for the one child who needed to experience Jesus and can do that by something we do or say, it’s all worth it – every single bit of it, and we are so blessed to be able to do this.

We do, of course, have plans for the coming months – heading “home” to Georgia for the Holidays, doing some volunteering and consulting work around our home state for a bit of early 2015, and then heading out of state for a spring adventure and summer job in a destination TBA (very exciting!)… But amid all of those plans we’ve decided to leave plenty of space for God to move. We’ve decided to dismantle our expectations, open up our lives again to live openly and expansively, and to “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the Living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.” (Philippians 2 MSG)

May each one of you have a beautiful holiday season filled with blessings beyond measure, and may this Christmas be one where you feel the joy of carrying the light-giving Message into the night as well.

Merry Merry Christmas!

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