Where We Are Moving (and Why I Blog)

It basically comes down to this: I cannot explain my life.

I’m beginning to realize, in hindsight, that this is why I blog: these posts are an attempt to find meaning. To rationalize my fight against the weight of our culture’s materialistic expectations. To maintain the courage to live an unexplainable life. To live simply. To live with purpose. To take risks.

Blogging helps to remind me why I keep trying to do all these things.

Yet as my own life continues, I find myself often afraid of that very calling. Or at least confused by it. Or full of doubt, wondering if I’m too conceited or self-obsessed – maybe I need to conform, to sit down, to stop speaking. What if, after encouraging people to live an adventurous life, my own journey comes to an untimely end? The last thing I want to be is yet another example of how taking risks is just another form of irresponsible living.

Or even worse: what if I reach the point where I’m no longer willing to live the life I am endorsing?

* * * * *

In June we returned from our trip, weary and uncertain, financially poor and full of doubts. We were aglow from the burn of new adventures. During that time, and after much consideration, we decided that moving to the city was the right thing to do. Since we homeschool our children and do not get the easy interaction that comes with having children in public school, we believed that living in close proximity to people would better allow us to contribute to a community.

It was with much excitement that we began looking to purchase a house in the city of Lancaster. I still didn’t have work lined up, so we started slowly, patiently, unwilling to commit to purchasing a house until a new project came through. During that time, we lost out on multiple houses we would have loved, simply because we felt a still, small voice whispering, “Wait.”

Then, a new project, and we felt the reins loosen a bit. We got more serious about buying. Still, each place we looked at, and liked, fell through for one reason or another. The ones we liked the most sold to other buyers almost immediately. We shifted our search to a small town south of the city. We found a place. We put in an offer. They countered.

Maile and I prayed. We prayed hard. Is this where you want us, God? Is this what we’re supposed to do? Is this where you want our family? Maile even told me later that on the morning we needed to submit our signed offer, she prayed, God, if you have something else for us, you’d better make it happen quickly.

Before signing the counter-offer, I happened to talk to a friend.

“I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before,” he said. “And you’re free to move forward with the house if you’d like. But I’ve got a cabin on 40 acres in southern Lancaster County. You’re welcome to stay there for one year if you’d like. It’s up to you.”

The picture at the top of the post is of my dad helping me clear the yard where we’ll be living for the next year.

* * * * *

There is a peace that comes when I do not hold tightly on to my own desires. When I allow the Spirit to move me and nudge me. When my prayerful wife and I submit to one another, knowing that we are both seeking with all of our hearts. It is with great peace that we accepted his offer, and it is with great excitement that we look forward to November, when we will move, once again, into the middle of nowhere.

And this is where my not understanding comes into play. This is when I cannot explain things. Because, logically, I agree with Christians who say we should live in cities. We should live among people, where we can help the poor and the sick and be good neighbors. I understand that. I agree with it. What I don’t understand is why God continually leads us, as a family, in a different direction, into remote places of peace.

Could it be that God believes I am a more productive writer in that environment? Could it be the best place for our family at this point? Could it be that life is full of seasons, and that some day we will be the outwardly missional family I envision, but that right now, for some reason unbeknownst to us, we are supposed to live in a 40-acre wood at the end of a half-mile lane?

I don’t know. I don’t always understand. I cannot always explain my life. But I know this: as Maile and I struggled to remain patient, God was there for us. When we don’t understand, he is there for us. When bad things happen, he is there for us. When we ran out of money this summer, he was there for us. And, when unexpected grace after grace falls from the sky, he is there with us.

This is why I blog.

* * * * *

When’s the last time you were confused by God?

60 Replies to “Where We Are Moving (and Why I Blog)”

  1. We searched for a church last year. We thought we found one at the beginning of the year. Since rhen the church has hemmorhaged members. The pastor search committee is fractured and can’t really afford a pastor. The church is close to not being able to pay its 2 million dollar mortgage and looking at cutting staff. We’re confused.

  2. I am confused every day. There’s a massive difference between what I think is the “right” thing to do, and what God has planned for me. I’m learning to listen, and the example of radical faith that you and Maile are sharing is encouraging and confirming for me. Thanks for being so transparent.

  3. I can’t think of very many moments when I’m not confused by God, to be honest. Most recently, though, is with my oldest daughter’s health. We’ve been praying for answers and it seemed like we had them and we’d start moving forward with treatment that made sense. Instead, they want to do more tests and send us off to see more specialists. It can be very frustrating, but I’m learning to trust God, even in my confusion. We had searched for a house, to no avail, earlier this year … and I’ve been unemployed for a while. I think, though, that the job isn’t coming so that I can be available to take her to appointments, stay home with her when she can’t get to school, and pray with her at the drop of a hat (seriously, she thinks of stuff to pray about every time I turn around — crying baby, sick friend, person driving erratically). God knows the big picture, though, and that’s what we need to trust. Also, congrats on the home, Shawn; Lancaster is a beautiful place to live. Many of my friends moved from Chester County to there after high school. I, on the other hand, ended up in Florida.

    1. I’m sorry you have to go through this, Jay. Your story reminds me of a friend of mine who moved to another state and couldn’t find work for a few months. He spent that time frantically trying to become a real estate agent, but just when he was about to take his final tests, he got a different job. He realized in hindsight that he could have used those months as a time to simply rest. It seems like you have a good handle on where you are, and I wish you all of God’s peace as you wait.

  4. As I sit alone on 10 acres, Shawn, I hear you. It is hard to see how this idea I have for this place fits at all with anything but my own selfishness. But when I think of anything else, it’s like my soul wilts a little. This is right, even when I try to think myself to a place where I see it as wrong. In that center of my soul, it is right.

    I so get this. Love you, all.

  5. I wish you all the best in your new home! From living in SoLanCo, I can unequivocally say we have poor and hungry out here who need help too. The reality of the world today is that wherever you go, you will be faced with people who need help. Your work just ends up looking a little different and sometimes you have to look harder to actually see it. Maybe that’s the challenge – finding the people who need to hear G-d’s love through you in a place that’s hard to find them.

    1. Sara, your encouragement means so much to me. And it’s a good reminder that there are people who need to experience G-d’s love in all parts of the world – country, city and suburb. Thank you.

  6. Tanya and I are in a similar position of praying and seeking right now. Big, life altering, risk-taking choices looming for us right now.

    I can totally relate to where you were. I only hope we find peace in our decisions like you did.

  7. I just love you guys! Somehow in your wandering, and wondering, you become centered…proven by your blog.
    I think we all get confused because we are trying to figure things out! We long for a logical answer, thinking that will give us peace. How ironic that this illogical answer has given you just that! Dont’cha just love faith. ;-)

    1. I’m beginning to understand a few things, Karen – that our ways are not his ways; that what he calls one person to do is not what he calls everyone to do. These are difficult realizations to make and believe.

  8. So many things I don’t understand. Why does God let us fail? Why does God send us up to the brink before providing? Why are some seasons hard and others so easy?

    It all makes me understand why Jesus wants us to just focus on abiding him, but gosh, those questions persist. I’m often reminded that nothing compares to what Jesus has in store for us, and I wonder if that’s why some things don’t add up here on earth: my sense of scale is all off.

  9. Oh my. I love this. This.

    This encourages me so much.

    Remember on my back porch, talking about risk and reward and how sometimes we just feel that inkling of yes or that hesitation in our spirits? I’ve been feeling it again the past few months and this was so timely for me. God is always on time. Always.

    I love this.

  10. The opening line to this post would be grea for a book. I’m just saying. It made me laugh and totally hooked me as a reader.

    And I think God wants us all to live lives that can only be explained within the context of His story. It won’t look the same for everyone, but He will be seen in each scene and throughout every chapter.

  11. I love this for you, Shawn! What an oasis, a place of respite this will be for you, your family, and those who love you. Who can say how God will use you while you’re at the cabin? Who can tell of the ways He is preparing the hearts of those you will meet there and even those who live near the next place you’ll live? Good things await, friend. Of this I am convinced.

  12. great post! i have spent a great deal of time confused, but i think i’m getting better at being open to His direction, which leads to less confusion. i haven’t yet conquered the “WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG?” part. i AM learning that sometimes the delay is God’s grace for another person involved in the situation. amazingly, it’s not all about me. hmmm.

  13. This reminds me of the discussion Phillip Yancey has in one of his books, how his wife prefers the city but they discovered that the country is better for his temperament, for writing. What an amazing story of God’s providence. Provide being the root word.

    And I love the comment above, that sometimes the delay is God’s grace for another person involved in the situation.


  14. “Of course, no one individual can attempt more than a fraction of this mission. That’s why mission is the work of the whole church, the whole time. Some will find God nudging them to work with handicapped children. Some will sense a call to local government. Others will discover a quiet satisfaction in artistic or educational projects. All will need one another for support and encouragement. All will need to be nourished by the central, worshipping life of the church, and that central life will itself be nourished and renewed as the friends of Jesus come back to worship from their mission in the world.”

    -N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope

  15. Here are my thoughts.

    If God only wanted people in the cities, the country wouldn’t exist.

    The internet is the new city. You are involved and connected. You have many readers, both Christian and Non-Christian. Your willingness to share your heart and your journey as you listen to God is the most missional one could be.

    Moving to the city to give out tracts on street corners is not the only way or even a productive way of sharing Christ/God (I know you aren’t saying that but I’m addressing the oversimplification of modern evangelical ideas of being ‘salt.’

    The church needs flowing as well as deep waters.

    1. Jason,
      Your idea that the internet is the new city intrigues me because I was thinking today that the internet has the potential to be the new “local” church. A number of churches stream their services and have chat features allowing people to interact with each other – discussing the content, and, in some cases, giving each other more food for thought. It occurs to me that when I watch a service online and take the time to interact with others, I find the experience of worship so much more profound than I do when I go to my local church. I don’t remember the last time I talked to someone at my local church about the message of the week, even as we sat in the pews at the end of the service. It’s like the service ends and we just move on. But I’ve had extended, quality conversations with complete strangers a continent away about a message we both just watched thanks to streaming. I have theories about why this may be the case, but I thought I’d throw it out and see if I’m the only one having this experience.

      1. The internet allows time in dialogue to linger. That’s both good and bad. It allows people to think longer about how to argue better, but it also allows for deeper and more extended “conversation” because of the time spent thinking in the in-between.

        I also think it’s the new city because it is where people flock to now in order to create new ventures. It is also the new frontier. In my original post I almost called it the ‘new world’. It’s at least some sort of parallel world.

        It’s a place that people go to gather. It’s not like living in the country away from others because that doesn’t have the element of gathering, sharing and conversation. The internet is also different from the suburbs, which disconnected people. I engage and discuss with people online much more than I have in my real life. Maybe partially because I’m somewhat introverted, or because it has acted like a city of neighbourhoods for me, where I can quickly and easily find like minded people gathered together.

        1. People have also lived in cities for the amount of opportunities, but that has become less necessary. It’s still true, but less so. You can live in very remote places and now find opportunity on the internet for full time work. It’s globalizing us, spreading us out. I don’t live in the city or near most of my friends and family, but I probably “talk” with them more on the internet then I would have if I lived near them.

          I also think cities have historically provided access to information and access to spreading information more quickly. Again, this is no longer the case. I don’t get my news by walking down to the newstand and see the latest breaking news story that was printed in the middle of the night, i can see what has just happened minutes ago in my facebook feed via news organizations, blogs, etc.

  16. Right now, yesterday, the whole of the past 2 years. I ask God “why and [insert other words of varying appropriateness because He already knows I’m thinking so I might as well just have it out] a lot.” I don’t have some grand and “here is how He provided” part to the story yet either, but I get small glimpses. When I can sit and write a story, I see God in this. And this moment, this piece of writing is a provision of grace.

  17. This might be a great example of the classic “Please don’t send me to Africa” thing. God is just hilarious sometimes, isn’t He?

    In all seriousness, I’m learning more and more that He will do what He already knows we need Him to do, whether we know what we need or not. I’m in the middle of Steven Furtick’s book and sermon series “Greater” and am beginning to understand in new ways that God is not out to make me miserable or punish me every time I mess up. He is FOR me and He wants so much more for my life than I even know to ask. As I wait to hear whether I have an internship for January and if that will mean my desired move back to NJ, or if I have to start my search all over less than a month before my program deadline and possibly spend another year in MA, I’m learning that trust involves leaving the “whatever” up to God and believing His heart for me. I’m making the transition from believing in God to believing God.

    Enjoy your 40 acres! (Anyone else suddenly have Caedmon’s Call stuck in their heads?) I suspect the kids won’t mind living there at all… Just think of all the adventures waiting for them (and you) on that land! May God continue to bless you as you yield to His plan.

  18. Shawn, as a city-dweller, and cubicle-bound drone, I can say from experience: it’s hard to “hear” in the city. Like you, I blog the boy make sense of life; unlike, I don’t believe I have quite the gift of faith, or facility with words, you’ve got. I do know this: every effort I’ve ever made to grow anything on my own results in a resounding thud. Almost quit blogging entirely last week. Good friends talked me out of it. Since then, I’ve checked out of the rat race of stats, comments, shares, etc, and just write for fun. Whatever opportunities come will come because God wills them. And I’m okay with that.

  19. Shawn….this post is EXACTLY why I (and so many others) love to “follow” you. Enough said….you speak for so many of us on so many levels.

  20. Thanks again for your encouraging words Shawn. God bewilders me too.

    My wife and I had a similar situation this summer. We had the opportunity to move to Wisconsin (where we met and were married) where I would be working as the director of a Christian camp we both love dearly. After several months of prayer, I was offered another position here in Wichita to work for a company I’ve admired for many years. While we were overwhelmed with gratitude that God was opening two doors at once, we struggled (hard) to discern God’s will. Do we uproot our family (2 children/1 awesome mutt) and move 800 miles to accept a ministry position that would pay close to half of what the positon here in Wichita would? There were obviously many other factors we had to consider, but we stayed here in Wichita and I am very happily employed at a fantastic, growing company. We may never truly know if this was the right decision, but we consider ourselves incredibly blessed and continue to serve in various capacities within our local church. “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!” Hope you enjoy the new place!

  21. This is so my life, Shawn. Right now, my life is in the same place it was a year ago, minus my mother, plus Prodigal magazine, but still in an ugly one-bedroom apartment with my husband who is still not employed full time and me, in the same job that I’m not comfortable with anymore. But God has a plan, and no matter how many times I try to “pass go” my way out of His plan, He’s still in control. Ultimately, I’m thankful, even when I can’t explain it to anyone else. Thanks for keeping things in perspective and living transparently.

  22. A thought came to mind when I read this.

    Observant Jews need community. For instance, many prayers can NOT be done without a group of Jews (often 10 or more). However, Observant Jews also need to eat kosher food. Unless they ALL become vegetarian, this means somebody has to make sure that somebody is providing kosher meat. Kosher meat must be slaughtered in a certain way. Not all the meat of a cow (for instance) is considered kosher. So, despite the need for community, there is also a need for Jews who are knowledgeable and observant, to live in more remote places and butcher and process meat (or supervise).

    Taking a step back, I realize that cities used to be far less – well, big and dense. Chicago, for example, used to have stockyards (from what I’ve heard, with quite a reputation for delicious meat). I’d bet most livestock is outlawed in most cities now. So, there’s an apples/oranges thing going on. However, I don’t think this dilutes the implications. Not everyone can be in the same place doing the same thing. People have different functions. Not everyone can be a fireman, or a preacher, or a teacher. Not everyone can inspire.

    Communities often reach beyond what we can see around us. They include the lurkers in our blogs and the friend of a friend of a friend we had in grade school. People we don’t even know exist are part of our greater community. When you hold the door for somebody, and they go on and smile at somebody later, that act of community has reached further than you expected – or will ever know.

    So, you’ll just have to find community another way I guess. Best wishes for a successful search.

  23. You know what, Shawn? God calls us to all kinds of places – sometimes cities, sometimes not. I’m writing this sitting in the Great Room at Laity Lodge, looking out at the canyon and the green, green trees. This place is about as isolated as it can be – and yet kingdom work happens here, day in and day out. Lives are changed, good things are learned, people are connected, hospitality is extended, prayers are offered. The story goes everywhere, Shawn. Everywhere. Enjoy this beautiful opportunity to stretch and settle and rest and restore. AND WRITE. This is a good, good thing, believe me. I don’t find this story in the least bit confusing. :>)

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