One year ago I bought a house in SW Florida. My dream home, in fact. It has this tropical oasis in the backyard I have desired since childhood. Funny how things change.
I recently told a friend, “God doesn’t take you from A to E. He takes you to B, first.”
She had said I was brave. Ha! The furthest from it I’d say. I’m just good at taking baby steps.
I have always been an anxious woman. Because of my fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable, I sought a life of order. I can remember when debit cards first became a normal thing to use instead of cash or check. I know it drove my ex crazy, but I would make him save every single receipt. I would sit down once a week with the stack and input them into my checkbook ledger. Even with the invention of online banking, and even when they got better at immediately posting a purchase, still I meticulously kept my budget. I saved the paper bills (hesitant to go for paperless billing), wrote the date paid on the outside of the envelope, and filed it away in order. I’m not saying balancing your budget is a bad thing. I am saying my detailed way of doing it is just one example of taking areas of my life and sculpting them into order and precision. It made me feel better to have my ducks in a row, to have a plan, and to know the steps from point A to beyond.
There’s this drawing I’ve seen of Jesus and a little girl. It’s cartoonish and simple, even a bit too much prosperity-gospel-like for my taste, but it points to a great truth. In the depiction, Jesus is holding out his hand for the girl to give him her teddy bear. She’s not wanting to do it, but he’s saying “trust me.” Behind his back you can see he’s holding a much bigger teddy bear in exchange for the small one.
The picture is all well and good, but in real life we can’t see the bigger teddy bear behind his back (in the future). Instead it requires trusting that what God has is better than we can imagine for ourselves. It’s about knowing God’s character and that he is good. Going step by step with Jesus is a lot like the teddy bear picture, but our finite minds cannot see what lays ahead. Step one may be releasing that thing we hold dear, like comfort, security, order, and control for me.
Five years ago my family left our hometown, family and friends, our house, our jobs, and most importantly, our comfort zone. If you’ve followed me for a while, then you know this story. If not, let me give you an example of travel nurse life. A real scenario that happened to me.
I had two shifts left in my current contract, then my job would end. I had no idea where I was going to work next. I had no idea where I would take my family to live. As the sole breadwinner for our family of five, I had no idea if I would have income coming in after this last paycheck. Yet, I was cool as a cucumber. Err, for the most part, anyway. Lol.
I learned how to lay down control. I learned how to surrender my fear, my future, my family, and my finances to God. I saw in real time that handing him the bear made my hands empty to receive what he wanted to place there. I would not trade these past five years for anything; they transformed my relationship with Jesus.
I share this journey in humility. There’s no pride because I’m not boasting in me; I’m boasting in Him. His peace.
The thing is, real life isn’t as two dimensional as the cartoon of Jesus and the bear from above. You can take the first step of handing over your “teddy,” and then you find yourself plummeting downward into calamity. Wait a minute? What happened to my bigger prize?!
You see, God doesn’t promise an easy journey from A to E, but we know by his character (as portrayed in scripture) that it will eventually work for our good. The next step may be bumpy, but in my experience, your perception changes. The downs don’t seem as detrimental when you’re standing on The Rock. Again, my experience.
It occurred to me this morning that the entire Biblical story is a step by step (not the song by NKOTB, btw). When you read the Bible you must read it as the entire story. So, when you’re in the Old Testament reading how God destroyed a group of bad dudes, you have to look at it in context of “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say. Understand that God has to take his people from A (the fall) to E (the second coming) without leaving out the B, C, and D. Humans have free will, and he couldn’t bring us back to relationship with him without the in-between. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, so the Israelites could be saved. But then they end up slaves to the Egyptians. So, along comes Moses to free them. But then they gotta wander in the desert a few decades. See where I’m going here? Step by step. One leads to the next, and sure, some crap comes along the way, but so does amazing blessing. Then Jesus comes in and changes everything! The curse is broken! We’re on the last leg of the race. If the entire Biblical story is a step by step journey of God getting us back to him, doesn’t it only seem logical that it’s our job to keep stepping on this last lap?
The key is simply taking a step when he leads you to.
A year and a half ago, God told me to go to Fort Myers. I didn’t want to go, but I have found blessing here, and I’d like to think he has used me for his kingdom purposes. Because I haven’t mentioned this yet, but it’s not just all about me. Lol.
Now, God is calling us to another step. Away from the home we thought would be our last. Away from Florida. A place I absolutely love! He has placed dreams in our hearts that are different from anything we could have imagined on our own. We have asked for open doors and closed doors, and now we’re taking our next step. Maybe we never stop taking another step until Jesus returns.
So, what’s next for the Gowen’s? For now, we are headed to Virginia. It is for lovers, after all. 😆 What’s after that? I don’t know the details, for sure. We’re just taking it one step at a time.
I will be completely transparent with this next statement. I have experienced a lot of hurt over the past couple of years. Not within my safe, inner circle, but beyond. I have been sharing my life via this blog and social media for about a decade. Due to the hurt I’ve experienced, I have wanted to hide my family away, to stop sharing with toxic people who don’t deserve to know what God is doing with us. I’m working on it. I know that good people still exist, and I know things I share may help someone out there.
So, welcome to my inner sanctum. You have no clue I started travel nursing again, or that I’ve been on a contract away from home for three months. I’ve kept my life close to the vest, but I treasure many of you out there, and it’s not fair for me to pull away from you based on the actions of others. Plus, I didn’t want to share a picture of mountains on Instagram and you be like, “do what?!” Ha.
I’ll share of photo here of the driveway to a house we’ll be renting, complete with five acres to let that new Labrador run around. There will be more to come. Just allow me the time to put it out there as my heart feels ready. One step at a time. Right?
Thank you, friends.