This past fall when I began Community Bible Study (CBS), God had our family in a waiting phase. You see, my husband had lost his job the November before...and when you have five children and no regular income, life becomes interesting to say the least. During this time, we experienced God as Jehovah Jireh (the Great Provider) and El Shaddai (the All Sufficient One) as He provided for need after need and miraculously kept us out of debt.
On the first day of CBS, each person is assigned a discussion group. I've heard that there is a lot of time spent in prayer by CBS leadership in regards to the discussion groups. I am not surpised by that fact, becuase that is the only thing to which I can contribute our small group's cohesiveness. The Holy Spirit's presence was there, week after week, guiding our discussion. There wasn't a day that I didn't walk out feeling counseled, taught and ministered to. And week after week I asked for prayer for employment for my husband and for God's provision while we waited.
In October we learned of an opening in Western Kentucky with Fellowship of Christain Athletes (FCA). We began praying over this opportunity. For the first time in nine long months of no's and door slamming, door after door started opening for my husband. It didn't take us long to realize that all the no's from God had held a purpose. In every single 'no', we had learned how to rely less on ourselves and more on Him. In every 'no', He had been equipping us to learn how to trust Him for daily provision. In every single no, He had been preparing us for this yes. His yes.
So as this job possibility turned into a reality, we were ecstatic that at last God was answering! We were ecstatic to be moving towards a purpose! But moving? Moving???!!! About this, ecstatic I was not. When I heard we had to move to Paducah...my first reaction was 'that rhymes with Bazooka...I cannot live somewhere that rhymes with Bazooka.' I distinctly remember telling a friend on the phone, 'I am NOT living in Paducah!' And I'll never forget her reply: 'I hate to tell you this, but often the thing we are adamantly saying no to is the thing God is calling us to'.
...And many prayers later, we knew we couldn't stay. We had to go. We were moving to Paducah.
One Thursday morning after making this BIG decision, my mind was whirling. As I was dropping off my children to their respective classes--running late and mind preoccupied--I made a really bad decision. I pulled up to the curb to let my seven and nine year old out for their classes. It was a split decision--the kind you make when you are running late (the not-so-good kinds). I didn't realize that a car was behind me and decided to pull around me at the exact same time that my children were walking around my van, unseen.
I sat in the driver's seat, watching this unfold before my eyes, yelling , 'Stop! Stop!' Of course, they couldn't hear me, nor could the lady driving the other car. Thankfully, by the grace of God, she stopped and everything ended up being okay. Since I drive one of those obnoxious big vans that sits up really high, I couldn't see who was in the other car. My first reaction to that car was, 'What were you thinking?' Yet, almost immediately, I heard my voice of conscious say, 'What were YOU thinking??!!'
So I got out of my van, walked in the door--completely rattled and shaken--feeling like a complete failure of a mom. And then I see Trish walking up to me. She's in my discussion group. She is one of those ladies I hope to be one day--so full of joy it just oozes out of her. However, on this morning, she had a downcast, concerned look on her face. She told me she was the one in the other car. She told me over and over how very sorry she was. How very sorry. She telling me--Me, the mom who had just made one of the worst parenting decisions of her life. Tears flow. I apologize to her and tell her it was entirely my fault, and we stand out in the lobby stumbling over one another, each profusely taking the blame. The Holy Spirit invaded every inch of that exchange. I thought, 'What humility and Christ-likeness to walk up to me immediately and apologize for something that honestly wasn't her fault.' That moment was infused with the power of forgiveness...that power that melts all ill feelings...that power that replaces anger with love. Power that can only come from above. We walked into the sanctuary and stood next to one another, singing praises to God together...and so funny, we both leaned over to one another with the same thought, 'It's a good thing God is in control, instead of us!'
Later, that very same day, during prayer time, I shared in our discussion group the news that we are moving to Paducah to start up FCA in Western Kentucky. Immediately afterwards, guess who came up to me? Trish. She told me about how her family moved from Birmingham to Louisville in the same season of life, when her boys were the same age as my two oldest children, leaving extended family behind. She told me how scary it was, moving somewhere unknown and how difficult it was to leave family. But she then told me how faithful God was. How God used their family to help start FCA at Ballard High School. How FCA had had a huge impact on their family, making Louisvlle feel like home to them. I stood there with God-goosebumps. What were the odds of someone being in my discussion group with a story like this? God-odds, that's what. She also went on to tell me how God used her here to help get CBS going. And how she couldn't imagine not living in Louisville now--that God had had a plan all along. She had no idea how much I needed to hear all of that. But God did. He knew. And, as God so often does, He had already created a tender bond between Trish and I from our earlier exchange that morning. Thus, hearing this from her of all people made it seem more God-ordained than ever.
The women in my discussion group encouraged me to find out if Paducah had CBS. I agreed to check into this, but I wasn't very hopeful. I mean, they don't have a Target (I know--ouch), so what were the chances that they would have Community Bible Study? Well, much to my surprise, I learned that they do have CBS and a full children's program. God-goose bumps surfaced once again when I heard what book they are studying next year--Acts. Wow, are you kidding me? What book of the Bible would be any more appropriate to study while beginning a ministry? Once again, God was going before, sovereignly ordaining details.
Well, weeks zoomed along, until finally--much to my sad heart--the last day of CBS was upon us. I dreaded this day so much. I DID NOT want CBS to end. It seemed too fast. I mostly didn't want my weekly meetings with my discussion group to end. I had learned so very much from each and every person. Each one had contributed something to my Christian growth. In this year of change, in the chaos of trying to sell our home we'd lived in for years, in the sadness of moving, in the fear of the unknown, each week this group--they had been my 'known'. Week after week after week Christ had met me in my need and ministered to me through these women.
At the end of our discussion group that day, I sought out Trish to say thank you. But I couldn't even get a word in. She turned her sunshiny face towards me and began talking. She gently put my face between her two hands and joyfully poured out blessing after blessing upon me. One word after another, telling me exact words I needed to hear. It really felt like an interchange with God himself. I don't cry very easily--yet again, tears just flowed. She ended her outpouring of love with Ephesians 2:10: 'For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.' She didn't know this, but that has been my life verse for years and years, way back in the Nashvillian days. Way back in the early years of my salvation. Trish didn't know that. But God knew.
A few minutes later, we set down in the sanctuary for the lecture. The first verse that flashed up on the screen? Ephesians 2:10! No, I am not kidding, out of the zillion of verses in the Bible. And we had been studying John the entire year, not Ephesians. I gasped. Trish slid down in the chair beside me and we both looked at each other dumbfoundedly. Surprised. Yet not suprised. Because God knew. Yes, God knew.
When I got home from CBS that day, I called Eric and recounted my Ephesians 2:10 story, who happened to be in Kansas City all week for an FCA new hire training.
The next morning, he texted me: 'Guess what our devotional was on today? Ephesians 2:10.'
'For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.'
Yes, we are God's workmanship. Yes, we are created in Christ Jesus. Yes, out of that relationship flows good works. Yes, He prepares in advance. He equips. He goes before. He is in control.
God knew. And God knows.
CBS--I had to say good-bye, yet God is sweetly providing a CBS to say hello to in a few months. God takes away. But He also replaces.
He is so redeeming like that.