Thursday, April 3, 2014

There's something about that Parkway.....

When I was a kid I used to get pretty annoyed when the Sunday School verse was Psalm 37:4--  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  I never liked that verse.  Because the desires of my heart were the following: candy and soda every day, video games all night long, a swimming pool, a puppy, a kitten, a large collection of Trapper Keepers with Lisa Frank folders, a bunch of those shiny dolphin and rainbow stickers, a new box of crayons  for every day (Crayola only), and a 24 kt gold flute.  I also felt like I was pretty delightful.  We went to a fantastic church where I enjoyed myself, had a lot of friends to be delightful with....and that's where the Lord was....and I'm sure he could see how delightful I was....yet my heart's desires were nowhere to be found.  I was fortunate enough to have parents and Sunday School teachers who emphasized scripture.  I memorized a LOT of it through my elementary years....mostly to win contests....but nevertheless, I memorized.  And this was not for me.

It's been a while since I've written.  I haven't forgotten about my blog.  I've actually written 2 or 3 posts and then subsequently deleted them because they just weren't quite right.  The beginning of this year has had me more in a thinking and pondering mode rather than an expressing mode.  I've been thinking a lot about how incredibly different life has become.  I have this app called TimeHop on my phone.  It syncs with social media and every day it tells you what you were doing/saying/posting on this very day in history.  I think it's one of my favorite things to do every look back and see what was going on then and compare it to now.  When I think back to about a year ago, it was when Johnny got a call from a Dallas church regarding a position.  He had been approached several times before by the same church and I was so adamant that I wanted to stay here.  Florida.  Home.  But as I sat at my desk at work, on the phone with him, staring at the pattern on the carpet in contemplation, something inside said, let's go for it.  No, I didn't necessarily want to move away...but I didn't want to stay and continue doing what we were doing either.

We were stuck in a rut.  I was in a job that I enjoyed most of the time, but was high demand, high stress, topped off by a grisly commute.  I was putting all the energy I had into that and giving my family the leftovers.  I know I'm not the only one who has done or does this.  It was difficult, it was ugly, and it was unfair to my husband and to my baby.  Johnny was home taking care of Arlis, working part-time as a youth pastor, and his goal of returning to full time ministry was nowhere in sight.  This...Dallas...moving away....could be our chance.  And maybe the persistence of the job propositions Johnny was receiving was a sign  I could take a break and cut back on working, spend more time with Arlis, and he could take a full time position at a church.  We would switch life around a little bit....maybe a change in scenery would be good too?

But really, the desire of my heart was to be in Florida.  The desire of my heart was for Arlis to be near his grandparents.  And yet the desire of my heart was to allow my husband to lead our family and explore a change in his career.  The desire of my heart was for him to have the desires of his heart too.  The desire of my heart was to give this a chance, because maybe God was trying to tell us something.

So onward we went.  Once the interview process with Texas got serious I was so incredibly unsettled.  Sometimes it is really hard for me to separate intuition from emotion.  Sometimes it is hard to find God's voice and direction in the noise of my emotions.  I consider myself a pretty emotional person....I prefer the word, "passionate".  But here we were making a huge, huge decision and inside I felt like the world could possibly be ending.  And then the arguing with myself began.....

You feel unsettled because this isn't right.  No, you just don't want to leave, you're being selfish.  And you're the one who told your husband to do this.  Yeah...and what else was I supposed to do?  We were running out of gas and there was no other option on the table.  So you do this?  This was stupid.  Texas is not the answer.  Texas is not where you should be.  Um, is that you God?  Or is that my other personality......hello?......God?

I texted my dad.  He is wise and he is a source of calm for me during the most turbulent times of my life.  What do I do dad?  I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do?  He texted back to me an aviation analogy (of course!):
Continue on your current heading and you will know when to land.  

At the time this frustrated me.  I don't want to continue on this heading!  This heading is ugly and hard and confusing.  But I held on to his advice, because my dad has never let me down.

I've told a few people this... when I pray on the Polk Parkway, I get some real clarity.  Amusing, but true.  When Johnny was working at a church in Winter Haven I drove the Parkway a lot.  And I had a lot of praying to do during that period in our lives.  So I'd pray on the Parkway.  I'd sing and I'd pray.  There were 2 distinct times that I feel like I heard from God on the Parkway.  One of them was regarding this situation.  I was struggling with the events that had taken place that day regarding the details of Johnny's interview process.  He was on a plane home as I drove to get Arlis at my in-laws.  We were both confused and I (the passionate one) was angry.  So God, if this was for us, why was the process so very confusing and convoluted?  Shouldn't this be a bit easier?  More peaceful?  At the same time I was "discussing" this with God, I was also resisting with all my might the concept that this was the wrong path because I knew that if I tried hard enough I could find fault, because I didn't want to go.  And I wanted to do right.  I wanted to be uncomfortable if this was going to make life better--if this is what God had for us.  And then....finally.....I allowed myself the justice of considering--as objectively as I could at that moment--what if?  What if this isn't it.  So I said to God, what if this isn't it?

Instantly I was settled.  Nope.  This wasn't it.  I took a deep breath and felt instantly peaceful.  I don't know what was "it", but this wasn't it.  I knew now with a pretty solid degree of confidence that it just wasn't right.  There are a whole lot of other things I could talk about here....about how Johnny and I had to figure this out individually before we could collectively move on.....about how in a marriage sometimes you have to allow things to happen at a pace that you may not necessarily want to move at, for the greater good of  both of you....about how we would go through this process together over and over again before figuring out what was "it."  We came incredibly close to leaving Florida on several occasions over those next few months.  And I mean as close as, we packed up our house and rented it out.  But then ultimately when it was time to pull the trigger, something would stop us.  It wasn't yet "time to land".

Something's missing, I said to Jonathan.  I don't know what it is, but something's missing.  I know we aren't supposed to continue where we left off before we started this process of change, but I know that something is just not right.  Funny enough that "something" was the other thing I talked to God about on the Parkway, months and months and months before.  The church that my husband would start.  Something about that Parkway....

Clearly we are still here.  Lakeland, Florida.  Right near that Parkway.  And we are on such a different path than we were a year ago.  The hindsight is coming now, slowly but surely.  We had to go through a lot of difficult days to get to this point.  And the difficult days haven't ended...they're just different now.  When I sit and think about it, it's really hard to believe that all of it happened, and all in such a short period of time.  Most of 2014 (so far) has been spent trying to sort through it all, and figure out how to express it.  We've started a church.  A real church.  And people actually come to it.  And WANT to come to it.  And me.  I'm a...pastor's wife?  ME?  I'm not a pastor's wife.  I'm a professional and a wannabe lifetime student.  But now --I'm a pastor's wife.  That's scary.  This isn't completely unknown territory for me.  But it is uncomfortable territory.  (More on that later!)

When I was willing to get uncomfortable and leave Florida I think God may have been saying, are you willing to be uncomfortable for me?  And when it came down to it, I was.  I was willing to give it all up in order to allow him to work in our lives.  In the midst of it, I didn't like it.  It was flat out misery.  But I did it.  God gave me the desires of my heart because I was and I still am willing to get uncomfortable.  Taking delight in God is trusting in him, talking to him, and listening to him.--having a relationship with him.  Not to get your way...your way is irrelevant.  Not to spare you pain or discomfort...this is earth, not heaven.  Not to load up on Lisa Frank folders and golden instruments....haha!  But to truly, in your heart, want to do and live in his will.  Ultimately that is all that matters.  This doesn't spare you from heartache and hurt. I know this firsthand.  But when those painful days do come you have a really awesome friend to lean on...the one who made you, who loves you, who knows you inside and out and who, more than anyone else (including yourself!), wants what is best for you.

So it looks like the Kelley family has "landed".  :)  Thanks, Dad.

I don't drive on the Parkway as much as I used to.  But you better believe that when I do, I'm talking to God!


  1. The question I have is this. How do we ever settle on knowing something is right if in order to hear God we must entertain the idea that what we desire is the wrong path? Feelings are not infallible. Shouldn't something outside of ourselves guide us as well?

    What did you mean by something stopping you when you tried to move out of your house? Something fell through?

  2. Sometimes it is very clear that what I want is what God wants. However, I think it is wise to at least consider that our desire is the wrong path. For me, it is easy to say, "Well I don't feel good about doing _________ so it must not be right", when in fact time after time, in the Bible, that statement is proven wrong. Do you think Abraham felt fantastic about sacrificing his son, Isaac? If he went by his feelings and emotions he never would have brought him up to be sacrificed--and yet he was obedient and proved himself worthy. Do you think Jesus was at peace emotionally the night before he was crucified? Of course not! He bled in prayer because he wished to be spared. My point is, feelings are important and God gave them to us and I'm pretty sure he wants to know about them. He cares how we feel. But he did not give us feelings alone to use as a compass. I ignored my feelings in this situation and I went in the wrong direction for a while. So yes, something outside ourselves should guide us--the Holy Spirit. Feelings are fallible. He is not.

    We moved out of our house. It is now rented out. But we never left our city. The details about each situation are confidential because they involve other churches and other people. But we feel that the process we went through--essentially uprooting ourselves in all areas of our lives, including leaving our house--was preparation for what was to come and what is to come with Discover Family Church. In the end, with much prayer and counsel, we determined that our calling was right here.