A few months ago Jeremy and I went to Florida to attend a conference for church planters at Next Level Church. We look forward to this every year. It is a comfort to be with church planters who understand the weight of leading a church. Matt and Sarah Keller (lead couple of Next Level) and their team just spend several days pouring into us. Most of us planters come dry/empty or our cups are almost empty.
I know for Jeremy and I we kept telling ourselves, “We just gotta make it til we get to Florida.”
Upon arriving in Fort Myers we were weary and exhausted. We had just come through a long season. It started in the summer of trying to sell our CA house and not having a home for 5 weeks and staying in his mom’s one bedroom apartment. We were so thankful for that soft place to land and for all the other offers for us to stay with them. Regardless how wonderful those you stay with are, it is still hard to be without a home. I feel foolish even writing that when I consider those living in refugee camps or the homeless. I have learned to be thankful yet at the same time it is ok and totally healthy to acknowledge my own emotions and struggles. True there will always be someone worse off than me but to negate my own struggle would not be wise either.
So our selling and buying of homes is what started the long season. Amidst all of that we were renovating a church building. I will share more of that miracle in a separate post. This building and land was such a gift. But it was so very hard. It is difficult to renovate on a very limited budget. The small budget means most the work has to be done by our staff and a few other saints who showed up day after day to complete this huge undertaking.
I spent most my time caring for our kids and taking care of things on the homefront and still balancing church responsibilities. So I was weary in the mental sense. Jeremy was weary in the physical and mental sense. For months he essentially had to put on hold his strengths and passions of being a pastor and become a carpenter, drywaller, painter, plumber etc. He was mentally and physically spent.
This truly was a hard season for us. So it was a gift to travel to Florida and to allow others to pour into us. It is guaranteed every year I will cry a few times. It feels just so comforting to know others can say, “Me too.” It is not that I rejoice in their struggle but it helps me to know we are not alone. Matt and Sarah are several steps further in the pastoring/ churchplanting journey so they have wisdom and counsel to share with us. Probably the biggest thing is for them to say, “I understand your struggle. This is worth it. Keep going. We believe in you.” I know without a doubt what we are doing is worth it. I think of the individual stories of Jesus transforming hopeless into hope-filled. We know it is worth it but it is hard.
So it is quite evident to me why I would wrestle with anxiety during this season. We were feeling on the verge of burnout but it is only hindsight now that sees that. A friend had passed on her book, Mad Church Disease, to me about avoiding church burnout. I think it was a divine thing. At the time, I thought it was a good book and I was feeling like I was in a good spot in my life and not in burnout danger. This was a few months before the news of the building arrived and our house stuff.
I remember while in Florida, I started to feel one of those attacks. Attack is the perfect word because it comes and attacks my peace. Nothing in particular brought it on. But the fear began to creep. I wrestled even sharing it with Jeremy who was sitting right next to me. I was in a van full of us church planters and I feared letting it be known. I ended up whispering it to Jeremy. It ended up subsiding but in those moments I am always tempted to keep my struggle quiet. I believe that is the enemy of my soul who tempts me to remain silent because then I do not get the support and prayer I need. What I have found when I am transparent, many others say, “Me too” and they pray for me.
I had shared this attack with a few trusted prayer warriors and friends. They began praying and encouraging me. One sent me this link to a song, I Am Not Alone . Just listening to it brought tears. It is now a favorite. I know I am not alone because God is with me. I also know that I am not alone in dealing with anxiety.