I used to spend a lot of time pondering two questions:
- Is God real?
- Does my life even matter?
In my last blog post, I wrote about how I’ve come to realize the great impact one person has on the world around them.
In this post, I want to tell you another thing I’ve come to know for certain: the God of the Bible is real.
I watch God acting in lives all around me, every single day. When I began working in full-time ministry three years ago, the number of “God stories” I encountered increased exponentially. I see evidence of God every day, and often several times a day.
Let me say this again: God is real. He’s all around you, and He’s working all of the time.
You don’t need to believe in God for this to be true. It’s simply true. He’s bigger and better than our loftiest ideas and philosophies.
I’ve shared a lot of my “God Stories” here on my blog, but I thought it might be time for a recap of the past five years, because the only way I can explain so much good coming out of such unexpected hardship, is the faithfulness of God, no matter what.
2015 was the best year of our business’s life. We employed 23 staff members, and enjoyed printing for some of the most revered landscape photographers of our time. For nearly 20 years, our printmaking studio had been an industry leader, and we accomplished it while living in our dream location, just outside of Yosemite National Park. We couldn’t imagine a better life!
This is also the year the movie War Room was released. It’s a movie about the power of prayer, and it led me to pray more deliberately for myself, my family, and the people around me. If you ever wondered about prayer, and if it has an effect on the world at all, or is just wishful thinking…read on (and watch that movie)!
2016: Our company always experienced a downturn during election years, and this time, our business had no busy season. Our market was changing, and what started as a dip in our sales turned into a crater.
I homeschooled my children, and the idea of homeschooling them through high school overwhelmed me. We were attending church an hour away, and I knew it would be difficult for them to be involved in youth activities in a meaningful way, due to the distance. It seemed like we were at a dead end, with few options.
During a walk in Yosemite Valley, Rich suddenly turned to me and told me he thought we needed to sell our house, and that we should get ready for something big. A moment later he added, “Suse…I think we’re going to move to Nashville.” Rich never wanted to leave the mountains. It was as if he turned to me and said, with a perfectly level tone, that he thought we should sell the house and join the circus.
I knew it was God, because Nashville somehow instantly made sense, even though I’d only been there twice on brief visits, and he had never been. At that moment, a sudden peace came over both of us, as we realized God was planning a new direction for our lives. We were on the cusp of a big change.
2017: We thought the move to Nashville was a few years off into the future. We had to save money. We needed time to plan, and to figure out a way to move our business. God wrote the script differently.
We ended up shutting down our business in March 2017, sold our brands to a competitor, sold two houses, and moved the entire contents of our lives to Tennessee in a moving truck on July 1, 2017. Truly, nearly all that we spent 20 years accumulating and working for, was liquidated in a span of a few months. It was a strong reminder of the impermanence of stuff, and the eternal nature of God’s Kingdom. We brought our skills, talents, hearts, and each other to Tennessee. Almost everything else was left behind.
In 2018 I settled into my new job at GraceWorks Ministries. I needed to find a full time job, and I wrote in my journal that, if there was any way possible, I wanted it to be in ministry, and I wanted to be able to invest my talents to help people and grow God’s Kingdom.
I had no local network and an atypical resume, after being self employed for 20 years. I applied for a position through a temp agency, and the day before my interview, a different job came into the agency: a ministry was looking for help. It was GraceWorks. What started as a temp position turned into a full time job as the accounting and HR manager, I found myself using every skill I learned running a small business, and then some. Working in a ministry meant I could be share my faith at work. I could love people as Jesus did, and tell them my God stories, and I wouldn’t get fired or sued. It was an amazingly liberating thing.
As I drove my 40-minute commute to work one morning, I found myself asking God, “Did you really need to move me here to have me drive like this every day? Do I make that big of a difference at GraceWorks?” He reminded me that He’s the God who would leave the 99 sheep to chase down the one who went astray. Aspects of GraceWorks had gone astray, and I was one of the shepherds sent to bring it back on course.
By 2019, our family settled into a routine. For the first year in a long time, we didn’t have a new baby, a major move, or a job change. Having a routine, after several years of turmoil, felt like a miracle. I began attending a small group at my church, and suddenly I found myself with friends in Tennessee who were much like my friends in California…their God stories echoed of the faithfulness of the same God!
That summer, my sister and I managed to move my parents from California to her Ohio town, just before my father encountered major medical issues that he’s still battling today. There is no way they could have navigated their challenges in Oakhurst, as non-drivers, an hour from medical facilities, and with several nearby wildfires that would have further impacted my dad’s breathing issues. It was truly just in time.
2020 – With COVID-19, GraceWorks completely revamped the way we delivered food, and rent and utility assistance. I was able to work a bit in the food pantry, and with staff members I normally didn’t interact with on a daily basis. Though the pandemic kept many people at home, in the ministry, it brought us together in a new way, with new purpose. We filled trunks for 80+ families day, after day, after day, after day. We were often the only people our neighbors had seen or interacted with in quite some time. They were so happy to see friendly faces, and to receive good food.
At the same time, our church began an initiative to keep gathering together as safely as possible. They hosted outdoor worship services, bringing some of the biggest Christian bands (who were out of work, and stuck at home in Nashville) to perform for the community.
The world felt uncertain, and I began to read my Bible more, and to pray more. My kids were sent home on quarantine, and we suddenly found ourselves in a homeschooling situation again, only this time, I was working full time, with a 1.5 hour commute. God showed up by giving me energy; providing Rich with patience; and by giving our kids time to disengage with the sometimes toxic aspects of public school, so they could hear their own voices again. I also found myself unexpectedly applying for a new job, writing for the media team at our church. I ended the year in a new job at our church. A new God story had begun…
And now we’re four months into 2021.
I am working as a full time writer and editor—something I never thought I’d do as a job, back when we were immersed in running our own business. When I graduated college in 1995, I never envisioned using my Journalism degree to work at a Christian ministry, let alone a church. It’s amazing how much God has changed my heart, and the focus of my life, over the course of the past 25+ years.
There are so many things I haven’t listed: The friends who showed up at just the right time; the many stepping stones that were revealed, just in time, as we walked this journey from California to Tennessee; the financial provision; the healing in my heart of things I didn’t even know were there; the people who spoke into my life, in exactly the right way; and how I gave up the beautiful mountain vistas but gained the gift of dynamic and interesting friendships I never would have found, any other way…
Without Jesus, the past six years would have been so much harder, and so much less sweeter. In fact, I think I would have succumbed to dread and despair, if I hadn’t kept my eyes and heart focused solidly forward and upward. One step at a time, He has led us, guided us, and provided what we need. He has been a Constant Companion, a Steady Counselor, and a source of strength and wisdom with every victory and every hardship.
I do not know how people do this hard and crazy life without faith in God…and if you have read this far, and you are one of them, then take a step and ask God to show you He’s real, and to tune your heart so you can see Him at work. Make a point to pray each day, and be specific in your prayers.
When I was first a Christian, I prayed for furniture to fill our hollow, empty townhouse, even though we had no money to buy it. The next day, a woman at my Bible study asked if anyone needed furniture. She needed to find a place for hers while her family went to Ecuador on an extended mission trip. God is that amazing.
The truth is that hard things come, whether you believe in God or not. The benefit of knowing God, and walking through hard times with Him, is that He will lead you each step of the way; you are never alone; and you know He’s always working you towards something better. Just wait and see.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.