The year of 1999 was huge for me. The most giant of life’s milestones were achieved that year. First, I graduated from Judson College. Then I got my first ‘grown-up’ job at Protective Life Insurance Company (of which I just celebrated my 15th anniversary!) Scott and I bought our first house and then bought our first car. And to wrap up the year, I became a wife 🙂
It’s so hard to believe that 1999 was 15 years ago! Where did the time go? In the blink of an eye, I went from 22 to 37! To me, it seems like it was just yesterday that I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelor of Science diploma from the hands of Dr. David Potts, that Scott and I were signing the closing papers on our first sweet house on Red Hollow Road in Pinson, that I said ‘I do’ to the man of my dreams.
But 1999 was just the beginning – the beginning of a journey that I had NO IDEA where it would lead. I had my own ideas in mind of where our lives would go, but many times what we have in mind are not necessarily what God has in mind! Scripture even states that fact very clearly:
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21
One of the turns we made on our journey was leaving our non-denominational church to become Methodists. I grew up Assembly of God – very charismatic and non-traditional – so the change to a traditional Methodist church was rather drastic for me. I remember being handed a worship bulletin my first Sunday at Taylor Memorial UMC in Clay-Chalkville and I had no idea what it was! It was an outline that let you know what would be coming up next in the service. I NEVER had one growing up – I guess we always just flew by the seat of our pants. Or I guess I should say, the seat of God’s pants! Another funny memory from my first Sunday at Taylor – the bulletin said it was time for the Apostle’s Creed. Everyone stood up and started reciting all these things that they believed in. I just kept wondering why everyone was reciting the lyrics to the Rich Mullins song titled ‘Creed’!! Needless to say, the Apostle’s Creed was not part of our worship services growing up. Thank goodness I had the lyrics to Rich Mullins ‘A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band’ CD memorized!
Another turn that I was not expecting was our move to Union City, TN. Union City is in the northwest corner of Tennessee, and about 30 miles from where Scott grew up. Scott took a full-time youth pastor position at FUMC Union City. He felt God was calling him to work with youth that grew up in similar circumstances as he did. Now I always felt like one day we’d move to NW Tennessee, because Scott absolutely LOVES that area. I honestly believe he thinks it is the Promised Land! I figured that one day we’d actually retire in that area, to a farm of some sort, near some type of water so Scott can hunt and fish as much as his heart desires 🙂 I definitely did NOT think that I’d be raising my children there, especially at that young of an age. See, I’m a city girl! I’m from Birmingham! Union City is at least 1 hour away from any mall! There are cornfields or soybean fields in every open patch of land. It is super rural, and was once again, a drastic change for me. Getting my Tennessee driver’s license was almost too much for me. I felt like I was cheating on Alabama!
One other turn or curve on this journey that I was not prepared for was my mom’s passing. Now, I’m a very independent girl. I am not one that needed/needs my parents all that much. I feel like they did a really great job of raising me, and helped me believe in myself and taught me the necessary things to be a grown adult. I’m a pretty low-maintenance kid! But the fact is, even if you don’t necessarily need your parents, it’s always nice to know that they are there if you did need them. So although I didn’t ‘need’ Mom all that often, I loved knowing that she was just a phone call away. If you didn’t know, I’m TERRIBLE in the kitchen. That’s definitely where I need mom the most. I often called her with a cooking question. I remember after she passed, I was trying to cook something, so I picked up the phone to call her. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks – she was no longer available to take my call. The first of many tears shed (post-funeral) for my mom. Her passing was a drastic change that I was not expecting at all.
These are just a few of the turns, curves, detours, that our journey has taken us on. But just because they aren’t what I had planned, it doesn’t mean they weren’t wonderful life-changing experiences. By becoming the youth pastor at Taylor Memorial UMC back in 2003, God began planting the seeds of His calling Scott to full-time pastoral ministry in the Methodist Church. Our moving to Tennessee taught me valuable lessons in patience and slowing down. I enjoyed small town life, like Christmas parades and county fairs. I also created life-long friendships that I will treasure always. And I would have never learned of or been a part of the medical mission work of Operation New Life in Honduras had it not been for my dear friends, the Calfees. And even my mom’s death, a part of my journey that I definitely wish had turned out differently, has taught me of His unending love and providence in a way I couldn’t have learned any other way.
We have just now embarked on a new leg of our journey. We have moved to Mt. Olive, AL, and Scott will be the senior pastor at Mt. Olive UMC. This Sunday is our first Sunday to be there. We are excited to see what all God has in store for that body of believers and that community!
In preparation for our move, I met up with a childhood friend, Jamie Franks Walls, so I could get some boxes. See, her family had just moved up to Arab from south Alabama, so she had plenty of boxes and was very generous to give some to us. So, a few weeks ago, I went to her house to pick them up, and it was such a pleasant visit. I just hate that we had to end it so soon!
Jamie’s family is similar to mine in that they have had to move often due to her husband’s job. We move often because of Scott’s job. I have another friend, Carroll Lane Parsons, whose husband is a hospital administrator, and they have had to move several times for his job. And of course, there are the numerous military families I have met while we lived in Huntsville who are all familiar with moving due to being reassigned based on our nation’s needs. So as we were talking, I was thinking about that – all the people who are constantly picking up and moving because of the ‘boss’s’ directions. Some bosses are merely humans, some are a country, and others are Deity – but regardless, the move is based on someone else’s direction, not necessarily our own.
In the middle of our conversation, Jamie proceeded to tell me about her experience of getting their car tags changed over. Not even sure how we got on the subject, but apparently it was something I needed to hear! Once again, God speaks to us in all kinds of ways. Keep those ears and eyes open! She said that her husband wanted her to get a tag that had IAMB4U. But that was already taken, so she got IMB4U. As I was driving home, I could not get those 5 characters out of my mind. IMB4U. In light of all the moving talk we were having, these 5 characters just seemed to resonate with me. Regardless of where we (or any of my dear friends) move, He goes before us! He is ahead of us – He’s already there.
I’m not necessarily saying that every decision, choice, or move we make is absolutely God-ordained. I think we are human and that we mess up… OFTEN! I think that God has a perfect plan for us, but that no one follows it perfectly, because of that whole ‘human’ thing. I honestly think that as long as we are truly seeking God’s will for our lives, if we make a decision and choose the wrong job, the wrong church, the wrong city, that God will honor those intentions and still ‘go before us’.
I started thinking about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. How God gave them a cloud by day and a fire by night to lead them where they should go. He was before them.
21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. – Exodus 13:21-22
But both of those ‘signs’ were in the sky. The Israelites had to look up to see the clouds and the fire in order to follow God’s leading. I felt like God said, “Sarah, to know which way to go, you have to keep your head up. Keep your eyes focused on me. Don’t look down at the many distractions that can capture your attention and get you off your journey. Look for a pillar of cloud and a fire. IMB4U.”
Knowing that God is before me helps me be much more sure-footed in my steps. I know He was before me when we followed Him into the Methodist church. I know He was before me when we followed Him to Union City, TN. I know He was before me as I laid my mother in her final resting place. I know He is before me as I walk into the doors of Mt. Olive UMC this Sunday morning.
As I mentioned earlier, 1999 was a big year for me. Well, 15 years later, 2014 has turned out to be pretty big as well, especially for Scott. He finished his Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, he turned 40 years old, and he has been appointed to his first senior pastor position. Being a husband, raising a family, being a full-time youth pastor/associate pastor, and getting your undergrad and seminary degrees is super hard to do, and I’m beyond proud of him and what he has achieved. Now, we just have to keep our eyes to the skies and follow whole-heartedly wherever the Lord leads us. IMB4U…