Our Story | Part 5

This is Part 5 in a series of posts of Our Story and how the Lord brought Jon and I together. If you missed the previous posts you’ll find them here: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

While I was back in CA, Jon and I began talking a lot more often and really rebuilding our friendship. Actually, it may be more accurate to say, building a NEW friendship and learning to really just enjoy each other again. I spent my days striving to get closer to moving to Nashville, where I knew the Lord was taking me. As I mentioned in the last post, I didn’t have a car or a job (despite a lot of applying) so I wasn’t quite sure how or when I was going to get to Nashville. There were points that it felt virtually impossible or at least exceptionally far off. There were other days that I was SO sure I was supposed to be there that I was ready to spend some of the last of my savings to buy a oneway plane ticket and just go – even if I was jobless, carless, and homeless. Jon reminded me one day that because this was what Jesus wanted, in Him, it was already done. Later that day, through the Lord’s provision (because my striving certainly wasn’t doing anything!), I was able to buy a car. (I wrote a post about all of this at the time. Click here to read it.) Days after that, someone in the Body of believers in Nashville offered me a place to stay while I found a job and a place to live on my own. By the end of January, I was on the road and February 2nd, 2012 I arrived in my new home.

I moved to Nashville expecting Christ, and really nothing else. I believed it was no mistake that Jon was a part of this story. Naturally, I wondered if some of what the Lord had for me included “a relationship” with Jon, but I really didn’t know and chose to walk into it without expectation. I’m not going to lie… I did have some HOPE, but hope leaves all sorts of room for the Lord to direct. My expectation really was simply for Christ to be with us in our situation. I was confident that however He chose to do that, it would be GOOD!

Jon: At the beginning of January, God made it clear to me that I needed to lay it down (“it” being pursuing girls and trying to make relationships happen) and “do nothing.” I needed to just abide and rest in Him. This was not an easy thing to do for someone who was 33 years old and wanted to be married. But, trusting Him, I did just that. When Shanda moved here, I was still in this time of laying my desires down and that actually made things easier. I wasn’t thinking about what might happen or getting frustrated by not knowing how I felt about her.

Jon and I hung out a good bit. It was great to just live in the same place and be around each other in normal circumstances, with no pressure and no expectations. We both needed that. Of course, as the weeks went on and we were spending increased amounts of time together… I was certainly beginning to wonder, “Is this HAPPENING?” About the time that the wonder in me was growing, Jon began a conversation with me that lead to us beginning to date on March 3, 2012.

Jon: I remember waking up one morning during the last week of February and the Lord telling me “This is your wife!” Right then and there I was completely in love with Shanda and knew that I would marry her. It was crazy and surreal to think that just the day before I had no idea how I felt about her and wasn’t thinking about marriage at all.

Of course, Jon didn’t know that the Lord had shown me a year prior that he would be the man I would marry (as I mentioned in Part 1) [although, I’d certainly not always been confident that I’d heard correctly] and so he did not tell me ALL of that right away. It didn’t take long though. We both knew, very clearly, that THIS was Christ’s perfect timing for us. The death we experienced earlier on in our relationship was painful, but it made room for True Life to come in later. In His proper time, He brought His Life – resurrected life, not our own, into our relationship at a time when we were living in community, with each other, and many other saints. We needed them! We couldn’t do it alone! It was worth everything and we would not change any of it.

So here we are, one year later… On Friday we will have been married for 6 month, and we are more in love with each other every single day.

Our Story | Part 4

This is Part 4 in a series of posts of Our Story and how the Lord brought Jon and I together. If you missed the previous posts you’ll find them here: Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

I was so nervous preparing to visit Nashville and see Jon. I had no idea if we were going to have an awesome time together, not really hang out, or – worst case scenario – have an awkward, China part 2. My dear friend Lindsay gave me a pep talk, “Just don’t be weird. If you’re not weird, he won’t be weird.” That was my goal.

Jon: I was also really nervous about Shanda coming, fearing that it might be really awkward.

He picked me up at the airport and we went out to dinner and coffee and had GREAT conversation. It wasn’t awkward! It was quite fun! We ended up spending a lot of time together over the days I was in town and, by the end of it, I was certainly wondering if this just might not be over.

Jon: I was happily surprised that the time we spent together was opposite of how things went in China. A lot of that had to do with there being no expectations or pressure during this time and that allowed us to relax.

Visiting with the Body/church here was incredible. I was able to start getting to know a lot of the people and I was so excited by the way they expressed Christ. It felt like home and I knew I belonged here! I could talk a lot about that aspect of it, but that’s a story for another time.

The day I was leaving to head back to CA I told Jon that I THOUGHT I’d be moving here but would need to figure out a plan. A few days later, we had another conversation in which he asked more about what I was thinking and I told him, “I KNOW I am moving to Nashville. I need a car and a lot of other stuff to work out, but I know this is what the Lord has for me.”

[Click here for Part 5, which will wrap up Our Story.]

Our Story | Part 3

This is Part 3 in a series of posts of Our Story and how the Lord brought Jon and I together. If you missed the previous posts you’ll find them here: Part 1 and Part 2

I slowly shared with people in my life that I was praying about moving to Nashville to be a part of an organic body of believers, assuming each time that they would tell me it was a terrible and unwise idea and that I’d then have a reason to forget about it. But no one ever did that. Each person affirmed that it seemed to be from the Lord. I couldn’t believe it! And yet, I had to. The Lord was making Himself and His plans known, which can sometimes be a bit frightening.

I spent an evening at a very good friend’s home and shared some of this with her. She encouraged the move and started telling me how awesome of a city Nashville is. I admitted that I thought I was probably going to “have to” move to Nashville at some point, but I paired that with a list of reasons (read: excuses) that I thought I needed to wait awhile (at least a year!). She managed to blow all my excuses out of the water. I left her house and walked a block to my car, talking to Jesus as I walked. “Lord, I think you want me to move to Nashville. I don’t necessarily understand it, but I really can’t deny it. If it really IS what YOU want, you’re going to have to get Jon to say something to me because I CAN NOT (read: WILL NOT!) bring it up to him.”

Jon: I had been talking with both Shanda and another friend about organic church for a while, but neither lived in a place where one existed. At the time, we had an itinerant worker here with us in Nashville who was imparting a foundation of Christ and how to function in an organic church. I decided to ask him what people should do who have a longing and desire for this but live in a place where it doesn’t exist. He said that they had two options: pray that it might one day be birthed where they live or they could move to where one exists. This slightly freaked me out, because I couldn’t tell Shanda that she should think about moving to Nashville. No way. Not with our past. It would be awkward to say the least. But as I beheld the Lord over this for a few weeks, I felt more and more that I needed to tell her that she needed to think about (read: pray about it for a long, long time).

I knew that Christ was able, but I thought it would surely take some time. As I opened my car door my phone beeped. I looked at my phone and saw it was Jon. I looked up (as if looking into the Lord’s face) and said, “WHAAAAT?????” You’re kidding, right?” The message Jon sent led to a conversation the following day. We were talking about some other things and then he shifted the conversation saying, “I have been thinking about something… As crazy as this thought is… And I knowOh I do…” The moment he said that, my heart stopped. I knew what was coming and it was SO much faster than I imagined possible. He continued on and said that since I wasn’t really tied down anywhere, maybe I should consider moving to a place where the Lord was building an organic church (like Nashville). I told him that I was already praying about that very thing. We were both pretty freaked out at this point. I ended up sharing the story of the weeks/months I’d been seeking the Lord on this subject. It was amazing to realize that Christ had been at work on both my side AND Jon’s side of the story.

While it was clear that Christ was doing this, neither of us were really sure HOW it would all work out. We slowly talked more about it and began communicating more often through email. It was a slow process, but the more I heard from Jon, the more I was amazed by what the Lord was doing in his life and the more healing occurred and trust grew.

About a month later, I asked Jon to connect me to a sister in the body here in Nashville. I needed a connection and a tangible way to see that this wasn’t about Jon but about Christ and His body. He connected me to a wonderful sister and I was able to talk with her a few times. It really confirmed for me what the Lord was doing. We decided I should probably fly to Nashville for a visit to help finalize the decision and get to know other members of the body.

Before that trip, I sent Jon an email about what I was learning through our story about trust. The Lord had told me before Jon came to China to “Just trust ME and trust Jon.” But I didn’t really understand then what that meant then. It did not mean, “Trust Jon because he will never make a mistake.” nor did it mean, “Trust Jon because he will never disappoint you.” nor did it mean, “Trust Jon when it’s easy to trust him.” It meant that I needed to trust him because Christ is in us both and ultimately, it was HIM that I was to trust IN Jon. So, at this point in our story I told him, “I’ve made a choice now, that I didn’t know how to make before, to just trust you (the Jesus in you) no matter what and I’m sure I won’t always do that perfectly, but it’s a choice I’m going to keep making.”  

On that note, I made a trip to Nashville the first weekend of December in 2011…

[Stay tuned for Part 4.]

Our Story | Part 2

This is a part of a series of posts about the story that the Lord wrote in joining us [Jon and me] as one.
If you missed Part 1 click here to read it.

Part 2

I moved back to the states at the end of July 2011. Our communication had been non-existent for the last several months but some of our last emails had included some conversation about what we were learning about Christ and the church. In that exchange, Jon had encouraged me to read a book called Pagan Christianity and I started it while still in China. The Lord had made it clear to me that I would not be going back to “church” as I had known it before, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I knew this book was a part of the journey and I needed to read it, but it was challenging, and I had enough challenges in life going on. I put it down for a while and picked it back up and finished it after my return.

By the end of August, I decided it was okay to send Jon an email and check in on his life and his church learning journey. I informed him that “the Pagan book” (as we affectionately call it) was “ruining my life.” He responded, “I told you.” We began emailing about how the Lord was working, and opening our eyes, in the area of church. The conversations were amazing, but we didn’t talk about much aside from Christ and His body.

Christ had always been a part of our relationship but this was a turning point. He truly became the center and the ALL of both who we were as individuals, and how we related to each other. Where brokenness and pain had been, healing and trust began to be the dominant characteristic of our relationship. Without us even knowing at first, Christ began to breathe HIS life into us, as we continued to “let go” and trust and heal.

Upon finishing “the Pagan book,” I picked up another by the same author called “Reimagining Church.” It talked a lot about Organic Church Life and in the process of reading it, I knew. This is what the Lord is doing. This is what He is taking me to. This is what I’m here to find.

The Lord had begun to plant an Organic Church in Nashville and had brought Jon into it. I longed for something of the sort and tried to find it elsewhere. I thought there was absolutely NO WAY I could ever move to Nashville to be a part of the church there. With our history, how could I move to be a part of “his church?” But a good friend challenged me on that and encouraged me to pray about it, reminding me that “It’s not Jon’s church. It’s the Lord’s church.” I was honestly terrified the moment she said that, knowing it was just crazy enough that it really might be from the Lord. As I prayed quietly and secretly, He began to affirm that the church He was building in Nashville was not for Jon or for me, it was for Himself, and He intended us both to be a part of it.

 

[Stay tuned for part 3.]

 

Our Story | Part 1

As previously mentioned, Jon and I have decided to write a series of posts together (to be posted here) on Our Story, Our Wedding, and Marriage in Organic Church. We’re excited to share! We have seen Christ beautifully through our journey into life together. Here is the first in a series of many posts… 

Part 1

“Our Story” is not a usual one, nor is it a simple one. It is, however, a good one, worth telling. So, here we go.

3 years prior to our wedding we were first “connected” through a close mutual friend (and, of course, facebook). [That’s a long story in itself. We’ll skip it for the sake of time.] Before too long, we found ourselves communicating on a daily basis. A unique friendship formed, but, he lived in Nashville; I lived in Dallas (and was preparing to move to China); and we had never met.

When I ventured to the other side of the world in July 2010, we figured things would sort of fizzle out. Somehow though, our friendship only grew closer. Email, G-chat, and skype were the tools through which we were surprisingly becoming one of each other’s best friends, but two huge challenging facts remained. 1) We’d still never met in person. 2) We lived half a world away from each other. So, Jon made the leap and asked if he could come to China for a visit. He came in February 2011 for 8 days.

When people hear that they often make comments like, “Oh how romantic…” But those 8 days were anything BUT romantic. They were ROUGH. There were a long list of extenuating/unusual circumstances that made it so: being in a town that was literally shut down for the holidays, freezing cold weather, jet lag (for Jon), having nothing new to talk about on what was basically an 8 day long first date… The list goes on… But the biggest hindrance of those 8 days were our individual EXPECTATIONS and ASSUMPTIONS, along with our lack of communicating them clearly to each other.

We were pretty well set up for failure. And failure we found. We just could not make it work or figure it out.

Jon: From the beginning of our relationship, I had a hard time figuring out my feelings for Shanda. Where there should have been a definite like her/not like her, there was instead fuzziness. This was not new for me. Over the previous five years I had experienced this in a number of other relationships. I just couldn’t figure out how I felt. I had assumed that the reason I had was still fuzzy in how I felt for Shanda was just because we had not met and that going to China to meet her would change that, but that was not the case.

Shanda: I, on the other hand, had no fuzziness about my feelings. In fact, right before Jon came to China one of my best friends asked me how I was feeling. I responded, “I know it’s crazy. I haven’t even MET him in person yet. But I feel like when I go to the airport to meet him tomorrow night, I’ll be meeting my husband.” I really thought that feeling was from the Lord. It was too crazy for me to make it up. Needless to say, when things did not go very well… I was rather confused/hurt/disappointed.

We tried to be “just friends” for a while but it didn’t work very well, so while neither of us wanted to lose the other, holding on was unfair and unhealthy. So, we went through rather painful processes of letting go. It stunk. There were a lot of tears and a lot of grief. It honestly felt like a death. For a while, we stopped communicating altogether…

[Stay tuned for part 2!]