Thursday, April 18, 2013


Last night, I watched my husband cry.

He stood before our group of students, the kids we've loved and watched grow up, and told them he was resigning from the position of Youth Minister. I watched as his heart crumbled in front of them, as they sat in their seats and took in the news, some sniffling, some wiping away tears, some who had to leave the room because the pain was too strong.

I watched my husband give this news, and my heart broke all over again.

It started breaking nearly a year ago when Travis approached me and told me he couldn't shake the feeling that his time as the youth leader was over, that God was telling him that He had used him as much as He would and now it was time for another leader to step in and take over. I hated every word of what my husband shared with me. I was angry. At him, at God. We, as a church, were incredibly fragile at the time -- our pastor had just left, we were leader-less, families were practically fleeing to find new churches. It was an incredibly dark time in the life of our church, and here Travis was telling me it was time for us to contribute even more pain and disappointment to the people we loved so much. I was angry. I didn't understand.

Travis decided to continually pray about it. The man prayed for 6 months, begging God to show him he was mistaken, to show him that he needed to stay put as youth leader. Instead, the opposite happened. God began to reveal to us that we were becoming ineffective as leaders, that He was grooming other people to take over the position. That sounds bad, but it was such a good thing-- we, I, needed that-- to see firsthand how someone else could lead our students and do it so well. In the midst of the darkness within our church and within our own lives, I saw God do some amazing things in our youth ministry-- the more we stepped back, the more powerful he showed Himself to be. I began to understand.

By Thanksgiving, his mind was made up-- he would resign as youth leader at the end of the school year. Just that act alone-- not fighting God anymore and just giving in to His will, seemed to lift a huge weight off his shoulders. He was ready then to share the news, but we (us and the few church leaders he confided in) decided it would be best to wait to give that news. Our church was still going through hard times, we were still pastor-less, losing families, and hurting. It wasn't the right time to spring this news on anyone. Hey! We're leaving you, too! didn't seem too appropriate at that time.

So we waited, leading the students through appearances but behind the scenes, we were handing over the reigns. And big things started happening for our kids--things that Travis worked and fought for for many years but couldn't make happen began to happen as we stepped back. That's not a knock on Travis or his leadership abilities (he is an amazing leader and I respect him so much), it's just an illustration of how God was showing us this was the right decision.

And so last night Travis stood before his students and gave them news that broke some of their hearts, disappointed some, and no doubt left others feeling abandoned once again. I sat in the back of the room, and tears raced down my cheeks, and I had to grip my chair to keep myself from jumping up and exclaiming, "Nevermind! We're staying! Don't listen to a word he just said!" But I know that staying when God is clearly directing us to go would only cause more pain, more heartache, and more disappointment.

So as of May 31, we will no longer be leaders of our youth ministry. What a painful thing to write. We will still be active members of Grace Baptist Church. We are not leaving our church-- at least not in the foreseeable future-- we feel strongly that God is telling us to stay put. Grace is home. Come August, we will fill new ministry needs within the church. Every ounce of Travis and I are fervently begging God to let us fill needs within the youth ministry, but we don't know where He's leading right now. We don't know what He has planned; we just know we have to follow wherever He leads.

For the first time in 4 years, we are in transition. We are wandering. In Sunday School, we've been studying Exodus with our students-- how God called the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. We laugh at how absurd the Israelites are-- seeing God's power firsthand yet so easily forgetting Him, focusing on themselves, and blaming Moses when things don't go they way they want. Why are you trying to kill us out here in the wilderness? Why couldn't you just let us stay in Egypt? At least in Egypt, Pharaoh's army wasn't trying to kill us, we weren't starving to death, we weren't wandering around aimlessly. I pray that as Travis and I venture into our own wilderness, we remember God-- how He has shown Himself to us-- and trust His leading fully, not looking back as the Israelites did, but always moving forward.

I am sad for our family-- this ministry has been all we've known for 4 years. Our life has revolved around it, life happened because of it. And that chapter is ending for us. Last night on our way home, Travis said, "I've never known something was the right decision so much yet felt so sad about it." I echo that 100%. Following The Lord is a joyful journey, but sometimes it brings pain with it.

I am sad for our students. Those kids are some of the most important people in our lives. We love them. And to know that we are the cause of any pain, any disappointment, any feelings of abandonment hurts worse than any injury I've ever had. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are in the best hands-- God's hands-- and will be led by God's new man, so they are not being abandoned, but it's hard to make anyone believe that when you leave them. Being left hurts, and I hate that we are hurting our kids.

I am sad that we are disappointing and hurting our church family-- especially those who have been our biggest cheerleaders and prayer warriors. As a church, we've gone through so much hurt and pain and abandonment over the past year, and knowing that we are contributing to that makes my heart heavy.

I trust The Lord. I know that He only has good things planned for His church. I am excited about what He is doing, how He is working. I know that we'll look back and praise Him for this time because it will lead to blessings we never imagined. I am proud of my husband, for hearing and listening and following The Lord's lead, even though it has been so hard. I am proud of the work he's done, how he's loved and ministered to those kids, and how he is now passing his work off to someone else. I am so thankful to be his wife and have the privilege to follow and support him.

In our church, we have a little tradition: on Sunday nights, our youngest children stand in front of the congregation and sing praise songs. They always end with the same song, their favorite song. It is fitting for this season of our lives, so I'll end with it, too:

My lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is follow.
My lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is follow.
Strength for today is mine always
And all I need for tomorrow.
My lord knows the way through the wilderness,
All I have to do is follow.

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