Category Archives: Camilla

The Final Chapter

It’s funny how sometimes we pray so hard for something and then find ourselves surprised when God actually hears and answers us.

We had been praying for weeks that God would clearly guide us to the church where He wanted Charlie to serve.  We asked that He put that church on our hearts and no other – that there would be no doubt where He was leading us.  His answer came somewhere on I-95 South as we came home from Mississippi.

He was calling us to Camilla.

During that time in the car, we felt overwhelmed with peace at the thought of living and serving with the Camilla UMC family.  I told Charlie I felt like there was a deep well of joy waiting for us there that I didn’t think I could pass up.  We still weren’t sure where we’d live or where I might work, but we knew there were deep waters of community there that we couldn’t wait to dive into. A life there would be built around people rather than things, and for two people who spent the last 18 months gaining an acute appreciation for close relationships, that felt right.  We had to trust that God would work out the details.

As we we talked, the Lord led Charlie to the bottom line of His will.  Charlie was quiet for a minute and then said, “I feel like I could be happy ‘doing ministry’ in Hattiesburg.  But I have this feeling that we’d be ‘building the Kingdom’ with the people in Camilla.”

Done and done.

Hattiesburg made sense for us on paper – larger city with opportunities, close to family, good church – but Camilla made sense to the Lord.  And since we determined early in this process to follow Him wherever He led, it now made sense to our hearts too.

But the Lord didn’t stop there.  He called us to stretch our faith in a big way by removing Charlie’s name from the Hattiesburg position before we even knew if Camilla wanted us to come.  He asked us to trust Him that He wasn’t leading us to Mississippi, in the faith that He would provide for us in the direction we felt Him leading.

So we did what no sensible job-seeking person would do.  With no offers on the table, Charlie called the pastor in Hattiesburg and took his name out of the ring.  He explained that God was leading him somewhere else and he wanted to remove himself from their search to help them more easily find the person God had for that position.  That’s the great thing about ministry jobs – God has uniquely prepared someone to serve in each position, so if it’s just a matter of asking His will to be done to get all the right people to the right positions so that He can be glorified.  Charlie could have served in Hattiesburg – but someone else will serve them better because they’ll be within God’s will for themselves and that church.

After that conversation, Charlie hung up and we just kind of stared at each other.  We so clearly felt God calling us to Camilla that we’d now put all of our eggs in that basket.  We were literally living by faith of things promised yet still unseen.  We prayed He would make His will clear to that church family as well.

The next weekend, we went back to Camilla for Charlie’s last interview with the staff parish committee and so he could teach youth Sunday school and MYF.  We spent Saturday night at a cookout with several families from the church and we immediately felt like this was home.  Everyone was so genuinely warm.  We could tell this was the kind of community where neighbors truly care for each other however they can.  Throughout the weekend, people kept saying they hoped we liked Camilla while we kept thinking, “We hope you like us!”  It felt like we both wanted this to work and were trying to court the other one.  Looking back, I can see how God had been leading both of us towards each other before bringing us together that weekend.  Sidenote:  Ken, Camilla’s pastor, told us later that he felt Charlie was God’s choice for this position during their first conversation.  The Lord was leading us both just liked we prayed He would!

When they offered Charlie the position, we didn’t even discuss it with each other before he accepted.  When we were alone afterward, we just fell on the bed laughing in amazement at seeing this incredible journey with the Lord reach its destination.

It was almost two months to the day between God calling us to pursue youth ministry and Charlie accepting his new position at Camilla UMC.  With God’s will revealed to us now, I can look back and see how the path He led us down had a purpose at every step.  Some things didn’t make sense at the time, but now are revealed as tools that refined our hearts.

The Lord has led us down some narrow, winding paths in the last 18 months.  We couldn’t always see where we were headed, but the view from the end has always been more than worth it (and much, much more stunning than anywhere we could have reached ourselves).  From where we’re standing now in our last few days travel nursing, packing and preparing to move on Saturday, our view is of a beautiful church family that has already shown themselves to be generous, kind, servant-hearted people.  It’s a family of which we already feel a part and are so, so eager to join.

It doesn’t exactly feel like we’re moving to a new place on Saturday.  It feels like we’re coming home.

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…Continued…

One thing we’ve learned through travel nursing is that, whatever the options, God’s will is always the best.  There have been a few times in which we had our hearts set on a certain place and then struggled with disappointment when the Lord clearly led somewhere else.  Yet, where He sent us always ended up being perfect and nurturing, and we felt so silly for being reluctant to accept His will at first!  This lesson has been invaluable as we’ve gone through the search process for youth ministry jobs.  We determined to pray only for His will to be done and guarded our hearts from getting attached to any specific place.

I say it’s been invaluable because without that lesson firmly branded on our hearts, we might be packing up this week to head to the wrong city and the wrong church for us.

After moving on from Griffin, we heard back from two churches we had sent Charlie’s resume to a few weeks before.  One was in Camilla, GA, and the other in Hattiesburg, MS.  Since we heard from them at the same time, we felt ok pursuing them simultaneously while praying for the Lord to clearly show His will for each.

Charlie had a great phone conversation with Ken, the pastor in Camilla.  They discovered a mutual commitment to promoting discipleship within the church, and we could tell they would work well together.  Charlie’s work schedule allowed us to make the trip to Camilla the next day for an in-person interview with the search committee.  We could have done this via Skype, but we wanted to get a feel for the town since we weren’t familiar with south Georgia.

We felt good about the interview and especially enjoyed the kind, generous people we met.  The church has about 300 members with around 40 youth.  It’s very similar in size to the churches we’ve enjoyed while traveling, and we love the close sense of community that is fostered in a smaller church family.  The town is tiny compared to what we’re used to.  As we drove around the next day, we tried to picture what our life would look like in a town of 5,000 people in rural Georgia.  What would we do?  Where would I work?  We loved what we learned of the church, but is this just crazy?  Yet, everyone we’d met said they loved their town and would never leave because the people were just too wonderful.  We drove home knowing all we could do is pray that the Lord would guide us.  If He wanted us to go to Camilla, we wanted to be there and we trusted He would give us a rich life there as well.

The next weekend, we made the long trip to a church in Hattiesburg for a marathon day of interviews.  This was a slightly larger church that was structured very similar to Auburn UMC with the various ministry areas and location near the local university.  It has recently undergone a beautiful renovation in which everything flows from a central atrium, the youth and children’s rooms are extremely well designed and there are plenty of high-tech resources for each program.  We enjoyed worshipping there and had a great lunch with the staff.  They are a really warm and silly group of people, and we fit right in.  Charlie spent the afternoon in two more interviews before also attending MYF.  He came back to the hotel excited about everything he’d learned.  We had breakfast the next morning with the pastors and left feeling like this was a good fit for us.

Then, our hearts soared as we made the super fast trip down the highway and were at my parents’ house in an hour.  We kept thinking of how incredible it would be to live so close to family.  Our children would be near one set of grandparents, and I would get to spend a lot of time with my own grandmother.  Since Hattiesburg is a large town, we also knew it would be easy for me to find a job and there would be a lot of couples our age to do things with.  It was perfect.

We started the drive back to Florida the next morning asking the Lord to protect us from the temptation to compare the two churches.  Neither one had negatives that we could see – they were both so positive in their own ways that it was impossible to weigh them against each other in an attempt to determine where we should go.

We knew it was set up so that there was nothing on which we could make on our decision – we had to wait for the Lord to make it clear.

Yet in our humanness, we spent a little time on the drive back to Florida talking about how Hattiesburg made so much sense for us.  We felt like we would accept the job if they offered because we liked the church, we would be close to family (an idea my heart was having trouble not attaching itself to!), and I could easily find a job.  It was kind of settled.

Except for five hours later when, after a little while of not talking about this at all, I turned to Charlie and said, “I don’t think we can not go to Camilla.”

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The Journey Begins

Have you ever come home from a day at the beach and then decided to change everything you had planned for your immediate future?

No?  Well, let me tell you how that feels!

Two months ago, Charlie and I spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the beach soaking up the Florida sunshine.  But when we got home, my relaxed mood just turned sad.  I didn’t understand why I’d suddenly started crying, but I found myself saying, “I just don’t want to do this anymore.”

We’ve had hard days over the last year and a half when we’ve missed our families and friends and being part of a community.  But those days are always made better when we remember all the incredible experiences we’re able to have because of travel nursing.  Yes, some days are hard, but they have been more than worth it.  Until that afternoon.

As scary as it was to admit to each other, we talked for awhile about how we were ready to give up all the places we might yet go to gain the community we’d sacrificed.  We had planned to stop traveling next year, but that suddenly seemed like way too long to wait.  The restlessness that prompted us to start traveling had been satisfied and now was longing for a place called home.  Charlie talked a lot about how he felt ready to go into full time ministry.  He’s missed teaching students and serving the Lord with his gifts.  As he talked it out, he felt the Lord telling him not to wait another year.  Now was the time.

So that is how we reached a tipping point one sunny afternoon and just threw the reigns to God once again.  He’s faithfully and capably led us down so many unchartered paths, and it’s getting easier to follow Him wherever He suddenly may lead.

We spent that night calling some friends who are in ministry to get advice on writing a ministry resume and the best places to start looking for positions.  Within a day, we had Charlie’s resume out to several churches and just started praying that the Lord would put it in the hands of the church He wanted for us and allow it to be tossed aside at all the others.  Two weeks later, we were driving up for Charlie’s first interview with a church in Griffin, GA.  It was the same day we thought we’d be starting our cross-country drive to our next assignment in California.

To prepare for his Griffin interview, we spent an afternoon at our favorite coffee shop thinking through Charlie’s ministry philosophy and what he wanted for a youth group he led.  It was an incredible blessing to me to be the sounding board for my sweet husband.  Youth ministry had been on the back burner since we started traveling, and I loved seeing him light up again as he worked through ideas for discipleship and teachings.  The Lord really guided his heart that afternoon and gave him a clear vision of how He wants Charlie to approach full time ministry.  We were heading to Griffin with a solid foundation.

We spent a great weekend in Georgia and walked out of the interview feeling like there’s nothing we would have changed.  As great as the interview was, I think the main blessing came as we were driving through the town late Saturday afternoon.  As we passed through neighborhoods of quaint, older homes, the idea that we’d soon be moving into a permanent home became more real.  No matter where we ended up, we’d be settling down soon in a town where we didn’t know anyone.  Just two weeks before, Charlie was about to start interviewing for nursing jobs in southern California.  Now we were driving down a county road in Georgia to see the sunset and wondering which house we might rent.

I’ll never forget looking at Charlie and saying, “Even if we don’t end up here specifically, I’m happier driving around this small town tonight than I would be driving out to California.”

He didn’t end up getting the Griffin job.  But I know the real reason we went up there that weekend was to confirm that this is what we wanted.  The Lord let us glimpse what it will be like to settle down so that our hearts could swell at the thought and be reassured that we made the right decision.

We also realized that weekend how blessed we are to have each other and to have fostered a strong marriage.  It was just the two of us driving around that unknown town. It was just the two of us who’d decided to change everything in an afternoon.  It’s been just the two of us on this amazing journey since we left Alabama.  I was almost in tears looking at my husband and thinking how blessed I am to be married to a man who will follow the Lord wherever He leads.  I am blessed to have a marriage partner who will grab my hand as we dive heart first into the deep end of God’s will, trusting that He will help us swim together.

We’ve always been taught God is faithful and able.  Our minds have known that and our hearts have experienced it in small ways.  But getting out of our comfort zone through travel nursing has made it real to us in a way that only experience can.  Without the last year and a half, I’m not sure we’d be so quick to say “yes” to Him all the time.  But He has given us countless testimonies of His goodness and provision.  Everything has been worth it to gain the type of faith in which we’ll continue to turn down unknown roads with Him.

As we drove around Griffin that night, we affirmed we never want to grow so comfortable in our lives that we’d be unwilling to let Him change its course in an afternoon if He wills.

So we came home from a great weekend hoping that the position would work out. A week later we learned the Lord had closed that door, and we started praying that He would lead us forward.  We extended Charlie’s contract here in Florida for another month and went back to the job boards…

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Calculating New Route

All has been quiet on the blog front lately, and it’s because we’ve needed every inch of ourselves focused on the Lord.  He’s been leading us in a totally new direction for the last two months, and we haven’t felt like we could talk much about it until He got us to our final destination.  If we had been writing about this all along, you would have thought we were schizophrenic with all the things we thought He was doing!

On January 13, we decided to stop travel nursing and pursue full-time youth ministry.  Yesterday, Charlie accepted the position of Youth Director at Camilla United Methodist Church in Georgia.  The journey between has been beautiful!  The Lord has led us into deeper waters, revealed His will step by step, given us peace about the things He has yet to show us, and blessed our marriage with a renewed bond that comes from gathering up your collective courage and running full speed ahead towards a target you can’t see.

Over the next few days, I want to record the sweet memories and lessons from the past two months.  It might be long (and it might be boring!), but I don’t want to lose a single detail of this experience.  I remember Charlie telling me he wanted to someday be a youth minister, back when we were just friends in Auburn.  Last Sunday, as his wife, I watched as he taught his new group of students for the first time.

I’ve learned enough in the last two years to know I can’t anticipate anything the Lord will do.  When we say “yes” to anything He wants to bring our way, I’m finding that the road becomes more narrow and suddenly includes some hair-raising turns.  Yet the scenery is infinitely more colorful, more lush, and more heavenly.  Best of all, Someone Else is in the driver’s seat, so we get to just look out the window and enjoy the view.  Our little “scenic route” has taken a very big, beautiful turn and I want to remember this stretch of road for a long time.

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Tour de Bay

Hands down, one of our favorite things we’ve done on this travel nursing adventure is biking across the Golden Gate Bridge!

While we normally take the BART train into the city, last Thursday we loaded up our bikes and drove.  It was much easier to drive into the city than we thought!  It gave us the chance to cross the Bay Bridge, so that now we’ve driven across all three bridges spanning the San Francisco Bay.  We were blessed again with a perfectly clear, sunny day – never a guarantee with the city’s famous microclimates and fog.

Our first stop of the morning was Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world.  We’d walked up this on our first trip to the city, and Charlie has been itching to drive it ever since.  Unfortunately, a lot of people feel the same way! Rather than being able to really accelerate through the turns and have fun with it, we had to go slow behind several mini-vans.  It was still really fun, but Charlie is a great driver, and it would have been neat to drive it as fast as he wanted.  I didn’t mind so much, because the slower pace let me enjoy the hydrangeas that are planted around each of the switchback turns!

We found (free!) parking down at Fort Mason by the water and headed off on our bikes toward the bridge.  This was a new part of the city for us.  We rode along the water past Crissy Field and the Presidio before reaching the bridge.  I didn’t realize before this day that San Francisco has a pretty extensive military history.  Fort Mason was an army base for many years and handled most of the cargo for the Pacific campaign of World War II, while the Presidio was Spain’s main military outpost during their years colonizing this area.  Crissy Field is a former airstrip that has been turned into a beautiful park with a little beach.  All of this made a beautiful backdrop to our ride.

We made the one little uphill turn of the day, and we were at the entrance of the bridge.  Pedestrians and cyclists have to share one side of the bridge during the day, so it’s pretty slow-going as we navigated around the crowds on a narrow path next to the cars.  However, this gave us the chance to really look back towards the city, up at the massive support structures, etc.  We even saw some dolphins swimming below in the bay below.  Our camera stayed in our backpack most of the day since we were on our bikes, but we did stop in the middle of the bridge for a few quick pictures.

Once across, we descended a couple of miles into Sausalito where we had lunch at a cute cafe.  And, being us, we also managed to unknowingly choose the lunch spot with the largest cookies in town.  We must have an inner radar for finding epic baked goods!

Around 2:00 p.m., we caught the ferry back to the Ferry Building at Pier 1.  This was our first time actually out on the water, and it was fun to have this unique view of the bridge, Alcatraz, and the city.

We’ve found ourselves at the Ferry Building Marketplace each time we’ve been to the city, and this time I finally waited in the 20-minute line for a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee.  Charlie grabbed a maple cream soda, and we were on our way up the Embarcadero to complete our loop back to the car.

Having walked these 40 blocks before, it was so nice to be on our bikes this time!  We stopped at Pier 39 to say hello to the sea lions again and navigated our way through the throngs at Fisherman’s Wharf.  We then rode past Ghirardelli Square before coming back to Fort Mason.  San Francisco is actually a really small city, and our whole loop was only seven miles.  It was great to be able to take it slow and enjoy the sights along the way since the ride was not hard at all!

After getting cleaned up, we drove up into the Marina neighborhood and had dinner at a small Mediterranean cafe called La Med.  We got a seat in the window, and I had a glass of Greek sangria while we looked over the menu.  Since this was a legit Mediterranean restaurant (not your American-ized Greek salads and pita pockets), we ordered a ten item tasting course to share.  By doing this, we got to try a small taste of several new things and we loved it all!  I think my favorite was this cinnamon raisin chicken dish wrapped in phyllo.  I know that sounds like a really strange combination, but it was irresistible.  We also really enjoyed the lamb meatballs and the pomegranate chicken.  One of our favorite things about traveling is the opportunity to try different cuisines.  Back in Auburn, I never would have ordered something called “cinnamon raisin chicken,” but I know if it’s going to be good anywhere, it’s going to be good in a small cafe in San Francisco!

Looking for a little something sweet, we headed back down to Ghirardelli and shared some ice cream.  We had only had their vanilla flavor before, so this time we had to try the chocolate.  It was, as you can imagine Gharardelli chocolate ice cream to be, delicious!

So our third trip to the city was definitely one of our favorite days yet.  Our bikes allowed us to cover more ground than usual, and we enjoyed being in the neighborhoods near the bridge since we’ve formerly hung out mainly on the other end of town.  I think if we lived here, we’d be playing in those waterfront parks every chance we got!  And, of course, I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the moment soon after riding onto the bridge that Charlie turned around and gave me this grin that clearly said, “Oh my gosh, we are doing this!”  There’s no one else I’d rather ride through this fun adventure with!

See more pictures from this trip here.

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