A Letter to Myself

Almost two years ago I stood on a mountain outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, sensing God calling me into the depths of a “desert valley” sort of season, much like the climate and terrain of the place I was standing. Knowing before we even began trying that it might be hard for us to start a family, I was sensing God nudging me to start believing Him for one anyway.

I felt like He laid this invitation in my lap in that moment: In the coming season I am drawing you into the wilderness with me, and if you’re willing to follow me to the depths, what I’ll forge in you there will be the very thing that makes you thrive in this place I’ve called you to.

What I didn’t know in that moment was how true those words would be — that there would be pain and heartache and disappointment to walk through, and that I was going to be refined like never before. Now, two years of infertility struggles later, as I get ready to plant a church in that city God spoke so clearly to me in, I’m realizing how true His invitation was that day. Knowing what I know now, I wrote a letter to the me that stood on that mountain two years ago, getting ready to begin a journey deep into the valley of the shadow of death…

Dear Sara,

The journey ahead of you is not for the faint of heart. There will be deep places of pain and great chasms of uncertainty. You’ll feel lonely at times, but you’ll realize later that you were never alone. You’ll get tired of crying, but those tears are actually watering the soil of your soul, preparing the perfect place for hope to grow. You’ll hurt more than ever before, but know that those who know suffering will know glory. Before you begin your journey, though, here are some tips for your travel.

Pack light. Everything you need is in Him. The next two years are going to feel heavy, but remember that you have always been a girl who travels light. Cast your burdens on The Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)

People are going to say things that hurt. Things like, “You’re so young, you have plenty of time.” “If you just stopped trying, you would probably get pregnant.” “You’re worrying too much, that’s what’s wrong.” “If this doesn’t work, you could always just adopt.” (This one will really get to you, because you do have a heart for adoption, and how dare anyone imply that orphan care would be second-class parenting.) Know this, though: they don’t mean to discourage or offend you. They are trying to offer an encouraging word. Forgive them quickly. Do not let a seed of bitterness take root in that softened hope-soil of your heart.

Many of your closest friends, including both of your sisters, will get pregnant while you’re waiting. It is going to hurt like hell, and you will learn to fight envy and comparison like you have never had to in your life. Be honest with God in those moments. He isn’t intimidated by your anger. In fact, He can’t wait to meet you there with more grace than you’ve ever known. And what the enemy intends for destruction, He will turn around and use for good.

Press into friendship with Jesus and trust that you have a Good Father. In the midst of all your pain, you will find His nearness ever sweeter. What you’ll look back two years from now and realize is that all along, those words from Jeremiah 31 were true — He has loved you with an everlasting love, and He has drawn you with loving kindness. Ever near. Ever faithful. In the wilderness, yes, but not without a companion. And you will know Him more deeply and hold Him more dearly than ever before.

Your marriage will grow leaps and bounds in this season. Press into loving Noland. What you’ll learn is that your family journey is only yours. Just you two. Just the yet-to-be-realized dreams and little lives you’re longing to meet, and the two of you, hoping and hurting and fighting for all that you know He’s promised. It’s all knitting you closer together, and what’s growing, more than anything, is the love that will grow your family for all the rest of your days. It’s worth it.

You are sowing seeds of hope and faith. It will not be in vain. No one who hopes in the Lord will ever be put to shame. (Psalm 25:3) Seeds are sown in one season, but a harvest is reaped in another. This is your sowing season. Your harvest is coming, and the deposits you’re making in your deficit are growing interest like you could never imagine. Keep hoping. Keep believing. It’s all building something in the spirit that will far outlast any reward you’ll ever receive on earth.

You are a wildflower. Don’t worry. You’ll bloom when it’s time — not because of anything you’ve done, but just because it’s what you are made for. Growing in the most unlikely of places. Blooming where no other flower would. You have always been a springtime gal — and Sara girl, your springtime is coming. Those Luke 12 flowers — the ones clothed more beautifully than Solomon and all his splendor — you will bloom even brighter than them.

I wish I could tell you how the story ends. I wish I were writing this with a sleeping baby in the next room, letting you know your promise is on its way and that you can set your stride accordingly to run this race that has a definite finish line. But truthfully, I’m not sure. The doctors say it’s nearly impossible, and all the while, God seems to be moving on your behalf more than ever.

What I can tell you is that two years into this journey that feels really scary right now, you will be thriving even more than you are at the beginning of it. It won’t be without a lot of pain, or without relinquishing a lot of dreams of how you thought things were going to be by now. But you will know the character of God better than ever, and you will hope with a joy that must be chosen and fought for — and truly, I think that might be the deepest, most worthwhile kind of joy.

So, here’s to hope seeds that are finally beginning to bear fruit. To joy that’s deeper than the valley you’ve been dwelling in. To the storehouse of perseverance you’ve been making deposits in all this time, and the return you’re getting in faith and love.

We can do this. Whatever the rest of the journey looks like… we were made for it. I’ll keep walking if you will.

The day the dream of Ebenezer’s died (again)

#StainedGlassDec guest post by David Docusen

For as long as I’ve known David, which is something like four years now, he has been dreaming about opening Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina — modeled after Ebenezer’s in Washington, DC, a place you may be familiar with if you’re a fan of Mark Batterson. In the last few years I have seen David and the rest of my friends at Center City Church dream time and time again, hoping against hope and facing disappointment over and over — yet they still stand. They still choose to believe God has the best in mind for their dream for their city. David Docusen is the kind of leader I would follow anywhere — in fact, Noland and I were praying about moving to Charlotte at one point for that reason. I’m excited for you to get to peek through a little window into this guy’s life and walk with Jesus today.

***

November 20, 2013 will always hold a very special place in my heart. It’s the day that the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse died again in my heart.

For the preceding six months, I had prayed countless prayers, fasted countless meals and casted a vision to countless people that all aimed toward this date. November 20, 2013 was the closing date that we had scheduled for 420 W 5th Street, a historic fire station in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, NC.

Ebenezer's Charlotte

The first floor would be a 2,000+ square foot coffeehouse. The second floor would be a 300 seat multiple-use venue for our community. Instead of building a church facility, we have aimed to build something for our community to enjoy (and our church could use on Sunday mornings).

Everything seemed to be lining up. Meetings with the city were met with incredible enthusiasm for our project. The Historic Commission was shockingly supportive and excited for the adaptive re-use of this registered landmark. Financial contributions came miraculously to cover the cost of the due diligence period (over $20,000 for the deposit and various studies on the building to ensure it’s ability to function as we planned).

Ebenezers Charlotte Plans

Every arrow pointed toward November 20, 2013 being the most monumental day in the life of this dream.

November 20, 2013 came and went last year rather unceremoniously. We had built a relationship with a donor for the past two years that we thought would be at the closing table with us to bring this dream to life. For various reasons, this donor decided not to move forward with us, leaving us a bit disoriented and confused.

This is not the first death of this dream. We have had five separate properties that God seemingly opened doors, only to close them somewhere along the way. In this case, it was only a few steps away from the finish line of a marathon. We had worked on this project, specifically, for the past fourteen months. And every door opened except the last one.

There have been many long nights and uncomfortable interactions with God. Attempting to understand the all-knowing God while having a quite limited, human perspective is not an easy endeavor. I have wrestled with wide-ranging emotions;  faith, trust, disappointment, loss, shock, joy, disorientation, etc. And I can’t say that I’ve arrived at any answers, only a simple reminder.

 God only gives us what is best.

Here’s a few thoughts that I have arrived at on this journey:

  1. God is good, full of love and completely able to provide for his dreams.
  2. When my dreams align with His, our shared dream will come to pass.
  3. I don’t understand His timing, but believe his timing is perfect.
  4. I have a propensity to pitch fits like my kids do when they don’t get their way.
  5. God loves to hear me talk to him (even when I pitch fits), because the more I talk to him, the more he is able to shape my heart, perspective and understanding.

Strangely enough, the same week this dream died was a week that I arrived at Matthew 7:7-8 in our teaching series at Center City Church through the Sermon on the Mount.

 **Matthew 7:7-8 – “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I choose to keep on asking, seeking and knocking. Knowing full well (or at least choosing to believe) that God only gives us what is best. Just because I ask doesn’t mean I will receive what I want. But this verse promises that when I ask, and align myself with His desires, I will certainly receive the best that God has to offer.

The dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse died on November 20, 2013. But the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse is fully alive, today more than ever. Turns out that, yet again, I have had to let my dream die. My desires. My timetable.

And it’s in that death that the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse on the corner of 5th & Graham comes to life as my spirit actively dreams of the day that God brings his best to pass for the glory of his name and the benefit of our city.

God knows what is best for us. He knows how to withhold for our own good just like he knows how to give without sparing. – John Stott (from his brilliant book on the Sermon on the mount, “Christian Counter-Culture”)

I believe that the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse in the heart of Uptown Charlotte is God’s dream, not ours to own or hold. And I believe that we are one step closer to seeing this dream come to life.

David Docusen

daviddocusen

David Docusen grew up in Orlando, FL and moved to Charlotte, NC in 2008 to plant Center City Church. The church began to form in the Docusen’s living room  in the Fall of 2009 with a dozen people and a pot of spaghetti. The church continued to gather in the Docusen’s home until Center City Church was officially launched on Easter Sunday 2010 at Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School in Uptown Charlotte.

Four words describe what David hopes every person embraces at Center City: Read. Pray. Gather. Go. He believes that when a community gathers around the Word of God and learns to apply it to their lives, there is no limit for what God can do through that group of people.

David lives in Uptown Charlotte with his wife, Dara and their four children: Max, Mary, Jack and Ben.

Continue to follow David by reading his blog or following him on Twitter.