heritage: (noun) something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor
This is a long story.
A really good one.
An important one for my children,
and for my own heart.
In the Old Testament,
people piled up rocks to help them remember what the Lord had done.
They called them "stones of remembrance."
You can read about them in Gen. 27:22, 31:45, 35:14; Exodus 28:12; Joshua 4; Joshua 24; 1 Samuel 7:12.
They set them up so that, later, when they walked by them with their children,
they would remember and could tell their little ones the stories of what the Lord had done in their lives, in their past. They wanted these stories to become part of their children's legacy.
I love this....it makes me want to break out a sharpie and a pile of rocks and go to town.
And even though I am living in a rental house, and can't pile up stones right now,
I can write a blog of remembrance.
I can eventually print this blog out into a book so that my children may always remember what the Lord has done in our lives. I want them to be absolutely certain that their lives have not been a series of random events, but that it has been clearly and thankfully orchestrated by a God who wants His glory and their good.
The question we were asked most often, of course, was "What now?"
We really and truly had no idea.
We were willing to do anything at all, and spent a lot of time praying that the Lord would show us just exactly what He would have us do.
And then we waited.
"If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord's people have always been a waiting people." ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
At the time, I thought we were "just" waiting. I've since learned that the Lord was, of course, doing His thing. Preparing the way. And my heart.
Enter our friends, the Fowler's:
We met their family here at seminary,
and were instantly great friends.
Dan & Kyle have done a good job staying in touch since the Fowler's moved to Florida.
Kyle talked to Dan shortly after graduation and found out he was sending out resumes.
Around that same time, Kyle was meeting with some fellow youth pastors to talk about doing a community wide event for some students in their area of NW Florida. As they were leaving, he thought of Dan, and asked if anyone knew of any positions opening up at area churches. One of the guys mentioned that the student pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Cantonment was leaving - the coming Sunday was actually his last day.
(You have to know Kyle to really appreciate how the rest of this goes - but you just have to know that this is just the kind of friend he is.)
Kyle called Dan and asked Dan to send him his resume.
Kyle called Heritage Baptist Church to confirm the position was opening up.
He spoke to the pastor (Jeff Howard), and was told that a search committee had not yet been formed.
Kyle got Dan's resume, and hand delivered it to the church (35-40 minutes away!) on January 5.
Dan's resume was the first one they received.
He took pictures of the facilities and sent them to Dan.
On January 6, Dan was meeting with his mentor, Jake Mason.
Jake is the counseling pastor at our church, and Dan had just completed a year-long internship under his guidance. They were meeting about some ministry things, and Jake happened to ask how the job search was going. Because Dan knew that Jake was originally from Florida, he mentioned that his friend Kyle had just dropped off his resume at a church in Cantonment, Florida. Jake, of course, asked the name of the church, and when Dan told him that it was Heritage Baptist, Jake's jaw hit the floor.
Heritage Baptist just happened to be the church that Jake was from.
Get this connection:
When Jeff (the pastor at Heritage) served as youth pastor at Heritage, Jake and his wife Chelle served under him as youth workers.
Jake immediately e-mailed Jeff to set up a time to talk about the connection.
During this same time, and through the next few months, we were also putting in resumes at other churches and organizations. However, the Lord was continually closing doors. Dan would have a phone interview, or we would ask some questions, and the Lord just let us know that it wasn't the right place for us. There was always just a clear closed door on their end or on ours.
This happened probably half a dozen times.
We had 2 criteria as we continued searching for the place God would send us:
1. There's nowhere we won't send our resume.
2. But we won't send our resume anywhere we wouldn't want to spend the rest of our lives.
At the end of February, Jeff sent Jake a copy of the job description, and Jake passed it on to Dan.
As we sat on our couch and read it together, we were amazed at how perfectly it aligned with Dan's giftings.
However, we still hadn't heard anything from them, and realized that they probably were heading a different direction. Still, we waited and prayed.
Our hometown is about an hour west of Cantonment, where Heritage Baptist Church is located.
A few weeks before we headed down, Dan mentioned that he was going to call Jeff (the pastor) and see if he wanted to meet and have coffee. I was positively against it! I kept telling him the he was coming on too strong, and to not do it. But he just had this total peace that he was supposed to at least meet with him.
So he called, and Jeff agreed to meet.
They met at Starbucks on April 7,
and ended up spending more than 2 hours talking.
When Dan came home, the only thing he could really say to describe it was that they were totally like-minded in ministry. It felt nothing like an interview, but more like a conversation with a good friend about ministry. He said they would finish each other's sentences and nod while the other was talking...it was obviously a divine appointment.
Basically, that's when sparks started to fly.
Jeff and Dan both knew the the Lord was doing something.
Dan came home to talk to me, and Jeff went back to talk to the Personnel Team.
They talked again by phone on April 15, and set up a time for us to have a skype interview.
On April 19, after we put the kids to bed, Dan & I skyped with the Personnel Team.
It was a really good interview - and actually, it was less an interview than a really fun time to talk with friends. One of the things that was a confirmation to us was that, while we were a little nervous, at no point did we feel stiff or uncomfortable. They just got us, you know what I mean? We were able to answer their questions and be ourselves, and we talked and laughed and joked a lot.
We turned off skype that night and just couldn't quit smiling.
It was kind of like a blind date that went really, really well.
One of the most exciting things to us during this time was that the more we learned about Heritage Baptist Church, the more we loved them. They really get it....we had been praying for the Lord to plant us in a church that wasn't program-driven, that they valued discipleship, that they believed discipleship happens in the home first, that the staff in particular and the church as a whole were unified. And here we were, hearing that the heartbeat of the church was the very things that we had been praying for.
At the end of the week, on April 22, the team asked to check our references.
We provided that list for them on April 25.
Over the next week, they called our references.
(It was fun hearing from our references as they were called. Many of the things they were asking were very encouraging to us - just the kinds of questions we wanted them to be asking. Another confirmation.)
Around the end of the month, Jeff called Dan to ask if we would fly down for a visit and interview. We were really encouraged by this process and what the Lord had been doing - we were 100% confident that we needed to go visit.
We scheduled the visit for May 21-26.
As we waited those next few weeks, we spent lots of time praying and seeking the Lord. More than anything, we wanted to make sure we heard the Lord's will clearly. We kept checking each other's hearts, making sure that we were continuing in a posture of submission to the Lord, no matter what He asked of us.
We had a conversation with Lana during this same time that was pivotal for us as a family. We talked with her at dinner one night about going to visit this church. We shared with her about how it would mean leaving North Carolina, and how we would be closer to our family. We talked about different times in the Bible where God asked people to move, and how some of them responded correctly (Abram) and some didn't (Jonah), and how we want to be obedient to God in all things.
After we finished talking, she asked if she could just pray about it.
And her little prayer echoed in my mind over and over afterwards.
This is what she prayed:
"God, if you tell us to move, I'm going to be a little sad because my friends can't come with me. I hope you say yes anyway because I just want to be closer to Nana and PawPaw and all those guys.
But God, if you say yes or if you say no, it's alright with me."
That became our family prayer over the next few weeks.
God, if you say yes or if you say no, it's alright with me.
About a week before we were scheduled to leave,
during my personal devotion time,
I was reminding myself about who God is to me personally....
the fact that our relationship is not dependent on any circumstance -
that who HE IS is not dependent on any circumstance.
I turned to an old faithful, Psalm 16:5
"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup."
I read it out loud, and just meditated for a moment on the fact that HE is my inheritance. HE is my cup. Not a job, or a church, or a location, or even my family. Just God alone.
I thought about how I, the greatest of sinners, have received Christ Jesus Himself as an inheritance -
that I have a place at His table is more than I could ever ask for.
And then I kept reading.....
"The boundary lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me." (emphasis mine)
Of course it jumped off the page at me.
I've read the first part of that verse for years....it's a sweet reassurance from the Lord about the boundary lines in my life, and what they are. I suppose I've just skimmed over the second part of that verse.
Not this time.
The rest of the chapter is equally as rich, all the way down to verse 11: "You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever."
I finished my time in the Word that day with a surpassing peace that God Himself would make this known to us....this "path of life."
I don't even know how to summarize the time that we got to spend with Heritage Baptist Church from May 21-26. Dan's parents kept the kids for us so that we could both be fully present for all of the meetings and interviews - I couldn't be more grateful for that. I don't know how we would have done it otherwise, but I know that being able to focus on the people we were meeting made it so rich.
We arrived at the airport Saturday evening. Dan's parents met us there to get the kids. The pastor and his wife (Jeff and Sherry) met us there, too, to take us to dinner.
We had dinner with Jeff and Sherry and Sammy (the music minister) and his wife CJ. (My friend Chelle here in Wake Forest is good friends with CJ - another sweet connection.)
You know, those first meeting kind of things always have the potential to be awkward. We had to remind ourselves to just relax, to just BE....and it was a really good time. Lots of laughter....we ended that night with the feeling that not only could we do ministry with these people, but we could be friends with them, too. Another answer to prayer for us.
And then Sunday morning it was ON. At 9:15, we met with the youth and their parents. We got to share some of our story, and then we opened the floor to questions. They asked some good ones. We fell in love with them during that hour. The things they said, the questions they asked, the direction that these students and their parents want to go....well, they stole our hearts that morning.
At 10:45, we went to worship. Dan's parents met us there with the kids. I wanted to see how they did in childcare, and we wanted Dan's parents' opinion. His grandparents also met us there. (An added bonus to this location: his grandparents live in a nearby town.)
This particular Sunday morning also happened to be Orphan Care Sunday. While this might have seemed to everyone else to be an overlap, to me it was another confirmation from the Lord.
You can read about what God's been doing in our hearts pertaining to this here and here.
You see, when God began calling Dan & I to ministry nearly 6 years ago, He gave us a heart for the nations. So much so that we really believed He would send us overseas. We came to seminary thinking we would go overseas with the IMB when Dan finished school. However, as we continued to seek the Lord during our time here, He very clearly told us "No." And to be honest, I've spent the last couple of years wondering about that. Not upset about it, really, just wondering what in the world God intended to do with that passion, that love that He put inside us.
And on Sunday morning, as I sat there and listened to what the Lord is doing with Heritage Baptist Church in this area, I couldn't help but praise the Lord. As I listened to them talk about the work that they're doing as partners with churches in Brazil. As I listened to them talk about partnering with local believers in Ethiopia. As I listened to them talk about how it's the church's responsibility to care for orphans - that if we're doing our job well, we'll eradicate orphanages. As I listened to them, my heart sang along. I began to see that the work the Lord has been doing in our hearts for years now has been about preparing us for ministry with this church, in this place. More and more confirmation.
Right after church, we had a church-wide bbq lunch. (Can I just say that we LOVE real bbq....so different from the NC vinegary stuff.)
After lunch, we had another Q&A time with the entire congregation. Boy, did we make some memories during that time! From the first question to the last, it was good stuff. As I listened to Dan share, and was able to interject some, I knew without a doubt that the Spirit was in that place. I have to tell you, I was so proud of my husband. I was so thankful to be beside him, sharing life and ministry with him. His vision for discipleship, and the heart he has for youth....I admire him more than I can say.
Sunday night we had dinner with a family from the church. Delicious food, wonderful conversation, games and dessert..... it was one of those times where you just know that you're at the beginning of a life-long friendship. They are the kind of people we'll return to for wisdom again and again - we have great respect for them. They have the kind of kids we'll be friends with forever. It was just a really cool night.
Monday morning, we spent some time with the staff. While Dan met with Jeff for the rest of the day, I got to spend some time with Sherry, his wife. Monday night we met with the Personnel Team. They had a few questions, and we had a few questions, but we just basically confirmed that we are all hearing the same things from the Lord.
Tuesday was house hunting day. We spent literally 14 hours that day looking at houses, some with a realtor, and some on our own. We have a few options, but all are out of our price range. As soon as we get prequalified, we are going to low-ball them and pray. :) In the meantime, will you pray about that for us? We would love to have a place to settle into when we move, and we need it to be something very affordable. Will you pray for the Lord's provision, and that we might know what it is clearly?
Wednesday I got to have lunch with two women from the church while Dan studied for his sermon that night. Wednesday night he spoke to a packed-out house - and it was so good. We hung out afterwards for hours....so long that we had to eat a second dinner! Another family from the church took us out, and again - it was just that kind of moment where you look around the table at everyone laughing and just know that there will be lots more nights like this one.
That was just the overall feeling we had the whole time - this church just wrapped their arms around us....they embraced us. They truly, deeply love the Lord. They get the Great Commission, and they intend to carry it out. They don't see leading the youth as "Dan's job," but as something we're all in together.
We are just overwhelmed by the goodness of God to us through Heritage Baptist Church.
We flew back to NC on Thursday just in time for Lana's graduation on Friday.
We are working out some final logistics now, and while nothing is official, we are so excited about this work that the Lord is allowing us to join.
The church body will vote a week from today. Assuming that goes well, we will proceed from there.
We'll get prequalified for a mortgage so we can make offers on houses we like.
Once we have a place to live, we'll move to Florida.
Unbelievable. Unthinkable. More than we could ask for or imagine.
"This is our confidence - what the Lord begins, He completes. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must NOT be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what God WILL do". - Spurgeon
No Christian preschool graduation is complete without "Onward, Christian Soldiers." :)
Her Daddy brought her flowers.
She loved them.
With our firstborn....it's so hard to believe she's big enough to do this.
Just yesterday, I was carrying her in my belly,
rocking her in the middle of the night,
helping her learn to walk,
potty training her....
it's true what they say -
that the days drag but the years fly.
So thankful for Mrs. Nicole and Mrs. Jill,
for the Truth that they've poured into her,
for the way they've spoken Scripture over her as the encouraged her and as they disciplined her,
for the way they've embraced her exactly as she is.
After graduation, we went upstairs to the Fellowship Hall for a reception.
And you know how Lana loves celebrations, so this was a treat for her!
Each class had a display out -
here was Lana's.
This is where we received their "real" diplomas.
Team Davis is so thankful for the time we've had at Little Lambs!
This preschool has been far more than a preschool to the four of us.
It has been a place that we've loved, and grown up, and been forgiven, and been encouraged, and felt perhaps safest of all.
After naps, a celebratory dinner was in order!
Lana picked none other than Red Robin, and wore a special celebration outfit.
And then we polished off our day of celebration at Sweet Spoons....
Lana Marie Davis,
I am more thankful for you than words can say.
It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be your mommy.
I am amazed at the girl you're becoming.
You will always be my baby,
but somehow my baby can now
count to 100.
pump herself on the swings.
read. really and truly read.
make real friends.
be brave, even when Mommy's not there.
write words, lots of them.
cast a fishing line better than I.
say she's sorry, and mean it.
almost do a cartwheel.
take care of others.
figure out right from wrong.
How did this happen?
You are a marvel of development, my precious daughter,
and although I know that you would attained this growth in spite of me,
it is my joy and privilege to watch it unfold, day by day.