Bread Crumbs and New Beginnings

bread crumbs

God began tugging at our hearts, individually and then, over time, jointly. We didn’t know where specifically He was leading, but we started to pay attention and follow the trail of crumbs He laid down for us. Books like True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth by Palmer Chinchen and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker brought us to our knees. We felt as if we hadn’t completely understood God’s directive to reach out to the brokenhearted. We weren’t connecting with the unchurched like we should.

I knew the stirring was leading up to something big. I read Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and began purging my house of extra items in preparation of something, not knowing what.

On we followed, crumb after crumb, wondering and anticipating with excitement where the trail would lead. We asked questions, we perked our ears, we focused our eyes. We explored various new avenues of ministry. God led on, crumb by crumb. We narrowed our search, discarding anything not lining up with our thoughts and beliefs. And the phrase that kept surfacing out of discussions and books was “church plant.” He plopped church planting authors’ books in our laps. He put people in our path that were pursuing a church plant. Just as God had used people who had adopted, were adopting, and wanted to adopt to tell us to adopt, the topic of church planting came up so often we couldn’t ignore it. So we pursued it . . . bread crumbs.

And one day before the end goal had solidified (it was still quite fluid and abstract), I came face to face with my sinful nature of desiring comfort and stability. I came to the passage in Luke where Jesus asks some men to follow Him. Each had an excuse. Each excuse I had.

While Jesus had “no place to lay his head,” I had the comfort of a nice home with a newly remodeled (did I say beautifully remodeled?) bathroom & kitchen. And similar to the man who wanted to “bury his father,” I wanted to continue living within three hours of my mother so I could take care of her should she need me. But the hardest obstacle to hurdle was the last. The final man asked to “go back and say goodbye to his family.” And the weight of reality sunk deep. I did not want to say goodbye to the “family” I would leave behind: my 20-year-old son. His decision was clear. He would not go. He would stay back to finish his degree.

I wrestled with these excuses, these obstacles, these real-life issues. I knew I could not pursue God and continue to hold on to these securities. “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:62) So I let go. I wrote in my journal that day, “I know God is asking me to lay it all down for Him and His glory because of Him, because of His kingdom, for His children . . . in recognition that it is not about me. He cannot increase if I do not decrease.”

So we are going. Our bread crumb trail leads to Wildwood, FL . . . and a new church aptly named Hope Community Church. On August 1, four Winters family members and one new college graduate, Samuel Cutshall, will begin the process of planting. We have been warned it won’t be easy. But we are confident we are pursuing God’s plan.

I invite you to check out the church website HERE and like our facebook page HERE. I also ask that you pray for us as we transition and consider contributing a special gift or monthly gift toward the start-up of this ministry. If you would like more information, let me know.

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Fairy Tale Ending

As a child I fantasized about Prince Charming rescuing me—from what I don’t know, because my childhood was virtually problem-free—and the two of us sailing into the sunset together. I dreamed about and strove toward this “happily ever after” I heard so much about.

sunset over ocean

Then life happened.

I won’t bore you with details—you have your own details. You know the story. You are coasting along minding your own business. Then WHAM! Life.

Divorce.

Miscarriage.

Death.

Unemployment.

Parenting a difficult child.

Chronic pain.

The “unhappy ending.” Or is it?

One homeschool day recently I was reading from Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. The main character walks with a limp because her mother smashed her foot to keep the Sultan from taking her as one of his brides. At first the girl is bitter about the foot, but as the book progresses she learns her mother marred her out of love. It’s an excellent read and has many useful nuggets of truth. But on this particular day, this truth stood out to me:

But real life isn’t like that. Its endings are squirmier than the ones in stories. You try to tuck them in neatly and they kick the blankets off. The thing about life is, no matter what happens to you, it goes on. What seems like an ending is really a beginning in disguise.

I paused. Yes, that’s so true. My life had not ended when tragic events struck. In many cases, those very events were catalysts to deepen my relationship with the Lord or cause me to see a need in someone else’s life. For example, because it was so difficult to adopt Melinda, Don and I started an adoption ministry. Now we help others trying to adopt.

I was mulling this over when Kenneth spoke up. “That’s like death. You think it’s an ending but it’s really the beginning . . . of your eternal life with God.” WOW! Now that’s an ending to look forward to!