In his sermons, Andy frequently refers to the time we lived in Texas for "five years too long." Realizing that some of our friends from Texas listen to his podcasts and read this blog, I felt like a little clarification was in order.
Yesterday I sat down to write this post. However, I worked on it for over an hour and then finally gave up. I came to realize that the story is so long and involved that it's like writing chapters for a book, not posts for a blog. I couldn't figure out how to break it down into blog-sized-pieces.
So, here's just a snippet...and maybe one day I'll get around to that book! :-)
Andy & I got married in May '03 at the ripe ol' age of 21 years dumb. I had just (like 7 days prior) graduated from college and neither one of us had ever lived on our own. Andy was slightly more independent than me, but I had never paid a bill, never planned a week's worth of meals, and never experienced what it means to have "insufficient funds".
Three months later, we moved 1,000 miles away from any family with stars in our eyes as big and bright as those deep in the heart of Texas. Our [naive] plan was to both attend seminary full-time, both work part-time, and live on love in the meantime.
About one month in (when all the bills started arriving and the first round of papers were coming due), reality hit me across the face with a two by four. That's also about the same time that our pastor (John Worcester) approached us about the idea of starting a student church with Andy as the lead planter.
The idea of starting a church in seminary had honestly never crossed our minds. Andy and I were rather unlikely candidates for church planters as we were 22 years old, just started seminary, had only been married for 5 months, and had lived in Texas for about 5 minutes. We thought that we would get involved in a church plant and hopefully receive some training under John Worcester (a church planting genius), and then we dreamed of planting a church after seminary somewhere out West. We had even made a commitment to each other that we wouldn't get heavily involved in ministry for six months so that we could just get adjusted to married life. But there we were, one month in, and already considering STARTING A CHURCH! Not volunteering to be a greeter or help out with the kids program. Starting a church! (I'm not sure if that's comical or sad!)
We set aside two weeks to pray and asked several of our family members and mentors to pray with us. Honestly, the thought of turning down an opportunity to be coached by John Worcester felt akin to Timothy turning down the Apostle Paul. At the end of the two weeks, Andy and I signed on for the ride of our lives. There was no way that we could have understood at that time how this experience would define our lives and ministry.
During our time in Texas, God grew us, shaped our character, and stretched our capacity far beyond how far we thought we could stretch. To say it was an uncomfortable season would be the understatement of a lifetime. We were taking graduate level courses in Character School.
The reality is that no one can truly understand all the ways God has blessed South Bay without understanding our time in Texas.
Texas prepared us for all that He had in store for our future. If we had not had our Texas experience, there's no way that South Bay would be what it is today...and what it will be in the future.
So, are we thankful for our time in Texas? Absolutely. Beyond words. Did God change many lives and use the ministry of Breakthrough Church to impact UTA? There's no doubt. Do we still maintain some precious friendships and relationships that we developed during that time? Yep.
But there were so many things about that season that felt like death to me. And thus we tend to refer to that season as "5 years too long".