I have felt driven to write this post for months now, I just haven't been able to figure out how to start or end it. Although I still don’t know how this post will end I am okay with that because I’ve had a conviction that sometimes there isn’t an ending to some posts and that is okay. The points I’m trying to expose are endless anyways.
Since Jo and I have been married we have embarked on adventure after adventure. We have traveled to Europe, Central America and to some of the most breathtaking landmarks of North America. We have been blessed and people have asked us for years, “do you guys ever work?” “How do you afford to travel?” “don’t you wish you were home more often?” I mean really the questions have varied and it has been concluded through many conversations that some couldn’t imagine traveling as often as we do and some wish they could travel more frequently than they do.
This post doesn’t necessarily deal with how we travel, why we travel or what our future plans are with traveling. It goes deeper than that and I ask as you read, if you consider reading further, that you bear with my scattered comments and thoughts and try and gain something from the words I’m writing. Something beyond the surface itinerary posts or write-ups, something more calling and important that a destination, recipe or a decorating tip.
This post is about a heart thing that has been growing and advancing throughout our years of marriage, throughout our many adventures and throughout our everyday lifestyle. You see, we travel because GOD has allowed us the opportunity to travel. We don’t go broke doing it. Yes, we work, and we do make time for our family and loved ones. We love our travels and adventures but we recognize that life is so much more than this. We recognize that while Gods creations on earth are breathtaking and magnificent, his kingdom in eternity is much grander.
We woke up one windy, damp morning in the mountains of Costa Rica. This was within the first year of our marriage and just in that short period of time since May we had already traveled to Boston, New York City, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the mountains of North Carolina, the Coast of North Carolina, Virginia Beach, Charleston, South Carolina and within a few months we were planning to road trip through seven states going to and from Texas. We were excited, motivated, and amazed at the world we were witnessing. It was easy to see that we were becoming slightly entranced by travel and many thought we were living the grand life. But, for some reason, we woke up in this beautiful foreign land with a full day ahead of us of hiking, zip lining and animal sighting and yet both of us sat there and as if we were reading the others mind we decided to stream (with what limited connection we could gather) our home church’s Sunday service. We were feeling empty even though we were surrounded by a new, beautiful destination once again.
After watching that service online we felt renewed. We felt refreshed and alive once again. You see, despite our travels, new adventures and beautiful sightings there was still something missing. We needed to be in the Word. We needed to be filled with the Spirit. We had a very lengthy conversation that morning after this experience that basically concluded with us agreeing that while we LOVE to travel. We LOVE the cultures and people we meet on our travels, we were feeling like our purpose was blurring. What was the point of us using this time and effort without having an eternal purpose driving us?
We have since tried to think of many ways we can incorporate Christ into our passion of travel. For it is because of Him we are not only able to experience the world He created, but also through his divine creation we have a love for His world. We both truly believe and feel that God granted us a passion to travel and we sincerely feel that he is using that passion to glorify His kingdom and be a light for Him.
So, from this realization and change in approach on that morning in Costa Rica, we became more intentional with the methods of how we would adventure. Sometimes this would be taking a little extra time out of our itinerary talking and sharing Christ to someone we have met on an adventure that we feel God has led us to. Sometimes this looks like a small card that we have created that we leave in places like restaurant tables or hotel rooms that reads a bible verse and shares the reality that God loves them (whoever finds that card – God has led them to find it, we truly believe). Sometimes this can be as simple as asking the waitress bringing our food what specifically she needs us to pray for right before blessing our meal. God has used us in various ways throughout these years, sometimes we even get to witness His sense of humor during these moments.
We have toiled with the idea and very seriously considered quitting our jobs and traveling full time, if even for a year. However, we have always felt that God wasn’t leading us to this. After much prayer and conversation with one another we would both conclude that this wasn’t what God was calling us to do and being a true follower of Christ means truly and fully trusting that He WILL guide you where you need to be.
We have matured in our individual faith throughout our four years of marriage and adventures as well as grown in our unity together through Christ. Just this year we have had to learn to lean on Christ through many various trials and challenges. There have been way too many times this past year where we have looked at one another, sighed, and stated “it has been one long year.” However, it’s funny because each time we have spoken these words to one another we always follow them with, “it’s been a very good year, but long at times.”
We always have to go back to the reality that through our many trials and challenges God is still blessing us with His blessings. Even when things seem unbearable, He finds a way to bring joy into our day. You see, God has used his will for us to grow us even in times when it felt we were incapable to accept one more change or disappointment. God is going to use your circumstances, if you let him, to strengthen your love and knowledge of Him so you can pass it on to the next person. (1 Peter 1:6-8 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trial, so that the tested of your genuiness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”)
God has gently, and not so gently, reminded me over and over (faith is a continuous process, that at times needs to be refreshed daily) throughout this year, especially, that my job is NOT to worry! My job is NOT to judge, my job is NOT to have the next twenty years of my life planned to a complete and utter T. It’s not my job because he has already taken care of it! I have stopped on many of our adventures, normally as I’m looking out over a vast scene of mountains, lakes or scenery, that He has got it! “Look at all I have created” have been the words I hear Him speak in these moments. “Do you really underestimate my ability to lead you where you need to go? “For it is I (God) who is working in you enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
As Jo and I venture through these years of marriage, taking our trips and planning our next life steps we are constantly amazed at His gracious love and mercy that he portrays in our life. I’m amazed every single day, even when I’m sitting in our perfect 900 square foot town home that God led me to a man as wonderful as Jo. I see him sitting at our kitchen table reading his Bible and I think to myself, “God, you are wonderful. This was all your doing.” I see his majesty as he leads us back to Him and his word in seasons and times of complete business. He has the power to make our hearts yearn to hear from Him in those moments. I am constantly in awe of His design as we walk through the doors of the church that he led us to, even though both of us were living in different cities at the time and had no plans of settling down in Raleigh once we were married. I’m even more amazed when we climb the stairs that led us into our life class. You see, we were supposed to visit another life class one Sunday morning when a woman approached us at the elevator, looked at us and said “Hi, I’m Jennifer and I think you two need to come to our life class today.” If that’s not God’s will speaking, I don’t know is. The friends in that class, now three years later, have become like family, praying and walking through life with us, holding us accountable during various changing seasons of life. He is present even in our most typical of days and likewise He is present in our most exciting adventures.
So, as I close this, I guess I must wrap up all of my thoughts even though we concluded from the very first paragraph that this post would have no official ending.
I want to make it clear that our travels and adventures, while we love and will share our tips, advice and experiences are nothing other than a gift from God. We have been blessed and every time we write in one of our post that “God has blessed us with another adventure” we mean every single syllable of that statement. He has willed us to experience various places and we aren’t sure what this purpose will look like in the future, perhaps it’s the few people we have encountered and shared the Love of Christ with, perhaps it’s the mission trips we have signed up for over the past couple of years, perhaps there is a greater plan beyond what our limited sights can envision presently and perhaps we may never know. Only time will tell. However, we are sure, with 100% certainty that it is because of Him and for Him that we have these opportunities. Ask Him what His plan is for you. You may be surprised where He leads you when you whole-heartedly commit to living the life He has planned. I love the verse in Psalm 30 that says “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (v. 11-12)
God is using you! He is going to turn these events of life, if you let him, into dancing and joy that will forever leave you saying, “Thank you God! I could have never gotten to this place if it wasn’t for you!” That could mean unexpected adventures and travels that you didn’t even realize you desired. It may mean a job change that allows you to be with your family more often. It could mean many different things depending on who you are, what season of life you’re in and what will God has for you. But, you can rest assured that if you allow him, God will bless you with an adventure that you turn back and look at and think to yourself “how did I get so lucky? There’s no way I could have done that on my own. It must have been something greater.”
Psalm 37: 3-4 “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.