The husband and I have just finished Francis Chan’s book, You and Me Forever, a marriage book but really not. It’s a wanting God most book- the kind that seeps into bones and positions for holy change.
Chapter 4 has stayed with us, gotten us talking about living with a mission. We are mission-minded people at the core — GIDS (get it dones) our mentor, Monty, calls us. But too often, and this is just real talk, the mission revolves around us. It involves the getting more and going on vacation and working towards something big and fun. The God mission is always there but life often pushes it to second. We minister solo but not as often, together. And we both know: it’s time for more team.
Because there is nothing more powerful than a family on a mission.
We start with prayer, more of it, because what else when you don’t know where to start? We begin to turn off tvs and phones for one hour every Wednesday night, which seems small compared to the hours of the day, but never feels small in the moment because tvs and phones tend to be persuasive. The first 30 minutes we spend in different parts of the house, alone, hearing from God, solo. When we get back together in a few minutes, bring the words, verses, and phrases God speaks to your heart to share, we tell our 3 kids. We wing this. We don’t have a lot of experience.
Open. Bless others. Light. One. These are some of the words we bring back. And trust. Yes, that one comes up a few times, I notice.
In our coming back together time, on more than one Wednesday night around our family room’s leather ottoman, tears drip onto its top. We are a good family. A solid one. Our kids say grown-up prayers. But we don’t usually pray like this and the walls feel it. We are asking God for why we exist and what He wants us as a group to do – something, I’m convinced He finds precious in a family.
Tell us. Show us, we pray. What are the Whittles supposed to do? We ask Him.
Because when a family finds its mission it finds its pulse and we want ours.
Let me be honest. I’m initially thinking it’s a quote – a Chickfila type mission statement we can hang on the wall and of course, I know just where to hang it. I’ll call my favorite artist. She’ll make me a beautiful print. It’ll be a reminder for years to come, what the Whittles exist to do. Words on canvas. Awesome. Neat.
(I should tell you some back story, quickly. My husband and I have had a dream for awhile, and it started with taking a young man into our home his senior year of high school to live with us a few years ago. We sort of knew at that moment, in the way your gut tells you, that this was part of who we always wanted to be: housing people…missionaries, aging parents, college students, whomever God sent. We’ve had the plan: to build a smaller home with an apartment addition, and we’ve had the land to do it. What we haven’t had was the money. With 3 private school tuitions every month and all the 5 people expenses, our dream has had to wait.)
p.s. God dreams never die. But sometimes they wait.
At the time we start this move towards mission and team, we have issues. Marriage ones, financial ones, and we determine to work at both. (As you know, issues can be great catalysts for change.) We share this with our kids, openly, yet appropriately in the Wednesday night gatherings. I tell them about my personal shopping fast. The hubs tells them about his work modifications. We ask them to pray for us, for strength.
And life goes on like normal. Until June.
I’m left wondering when, if ever, the mission for the wall print will come. My husband and I again pray, this time committing to 40 dedicated days, and in 4 short ones our world turns like a rollercoaster on crack. It’s sudden, but not.
Too many details to share – you’ll have to just trust me that they are huge. God things. Unexpected things that happen without our permission and look like the worst for a few moments but turn out to be inexplicably the best. (The God best things often look bad, yes? And sometimes things blow up before they become beautiful. ) Major changes. Kids exercising faith. Saying yes. Looking with great anticipation to the future. Giving things over to God. Laying things down.
Living our mission.
We now know: our family mission won’t be a slogan to hang on our wall. It will be lived in real life.
~My son, a rising senior in high school who has gone to the same safe, familiar Christian school since kindergarten (please sit with this for a moment) will be moving to a large public school. He’s at peace and already thriving on his new football team. Honestly: thank you, Jesus.
~My daughter will be homeschooled for a year. (Pause. Never in my wildest.) She’s happy about some travel with me and getting really smart in Spanish, which will (ahem) not be taught by yours truly.
~Our family of 5 will be moving from a 3700 square foot house where we have lived for 10 years to a 1500 square foot house built in 1945. My big boys will share a room for the first time since they were toddlers, big hairy man feet and all. Call us nuts. We are all excited.
~We will work to save for one year to pay off our land and begin building the home to house us and anyone God sees fit to send our way. Our finances to God, on a new level. Actively working towards another piece of our family mission and slightly daunted yet exhilarated at the thought.
So if you see me selling furniture online, you will know it’s mere math: 3700 to 1500. Some things don’t fit.
And if you see me posting before and after pics of a 1945 house we are painting, you will know it is my effort to make a new/old home more cozy so give me a cyber hug and tell me it looks amazing.
And if you hear me struggling in the words I choose to share some days because so much change all at once and I’m way human, remind me that it’s always worth the mission. He’s always worth the mission. The end.
And please: we aren’t heroes. Our mission is so much smaller than others. But this is our offering and our yes. This is where we’ve been led at this moment. It’s our family team sacrificing for the bigger mission, being GID’s together. We don’t just want to talk about God. We want to experience God. I don’t just want to write books. I want to write in people’s hearts, starting with my own kids. (We think we mess them up when we make them change. I suspect the truth is we mess them up when we don’t.)
This is not an experiment for a new book. I love people who do cool things like that, but we are not that cool. It’s not for blog posts. I may not even talk about it anymore. This is about wanting God. I want God in my finances. I want God more than a big house. I want God more than I fear change for my children. A mission helps with that.
So in case you can relate to my words and for your family, long to find your own mission:
1) Want one. Everything starts with desire.
2) Pray. Your first and next best step. And then the next, and the next and every best step after that.
3) Respond. Be ready to move in whatever way that looks when the mission becomes clear. (And even when the mission is not exactly.)
Because a family that finds its mission finds God.
Trusting Lord, for it to be so.
(**I’d love to hear about your family mission. Or pray with you to find one. Or hear your encouraging words for our journey. Ain’t too proud to beg. :) Come see me on social media and let’s talk about it, there: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)