This summer I’ve re-read Anything by Jennie Allen and participated in the online study. I asked Ordell in the midst of prepping for pre-season camp to take some time to read it as well, and thankfully he did. I’ve been wrestling with the words for my anything story, because the reality is, it’s more “our anything story” than mine, and after a few reflective conversations with Ordell I’ve come to realize our “anything prayer” began many years before I could identify it as such.
In the early years of our marriage, the direction forward seemed to change every few months. We were so eager to serve God and at the same time, we accidentally concluded along the way that this meant following the path that would bring the most happiness. You can imagine my surprise when after a sermon at our church in the Chicago suburbs settling our hearts on an upcoming move to southern IL we had a somewhat hostile welcoming.
Amidst the culture shock of being the “outsiders” for the first time came to a deep understanding that God had certainly called us to continue our lives in the cornfields, and it would be nothing like we had dreamed it would be. As the years continued we learned more about God and our relationship then I could have even begun to predict. Along the way our babies were born, new job paths carved, promotions, and most excitingly, a blooming ministry with football players and other students who attended the college Ordell coached at.
As groups of students graduated and others entered into our lives a rhythm of sorts developed, and in that rhythm, it was clear God had a call for our lives, we were to continue to minister to whichever campus God would bring us to. We were also to love on and support the staff families who came to work for my husband.
Interestingly, the prayer which Jennie and Zac prayed was “anything”, but for us, this prayer was rephrased and reshaped over the years. It began as “God use us as you see fit” and then became “God help me bloom where You have planted us, how You desire”. In the last 2 years of our life in the cornfield, our anything prayer took on a new intensity. Our boys were growing up and God was done allowing us to live in the infant stage of relationship with Him as well. We began attending a new church and quickly began to pray as our new leaders did “God, let our hearts beat for what makes Your heartbeat.”
Praying this together and separately allowed clear convictions began to form. As those convictions formed my sweet sweet coach who as a head coach had not seen a season with more than 3 losses began to pray for God to use him in any way He saw fit. I remember the night he prayed God if you need to, bring me to the wilderness like Abraham and Moses. In my head, I screamed “NO! Not that!” yet outwardly I smiled.
God answered our prayers and within a few months, we were packing up our lives and moving to the mountains of VA. It was clear to both of us and most around us as well that we were on the right path. We were even aware we were in for a challenging transition and first season. Our prayer for God to let our hearts beat for what His beat for was answered quickly. A deep love for our new campus came so easily. Even our boys 1st and 3rd grade seemed to understand our mission field had changed. They surrendered beloved clothing items in orange and black replaced for blue and red without a fight.
God answered another prayer that first year in VA. God allowed us to enter a wilderness time. We were prepared for a hard football season, and yet, in the midst of it, it was more challenging than we anticipated. Our wilderness was not just played out on the football field, it affected every aspect of our lives that year. Our conviction that our move was exactly what we were supposed to do never wavered, our understanding of exactly WHY God moved us did begin to change.
As I type this today, 7 months past the depths of our wilderness and 2 marriage shaping “strongly worded conversations” later, our anything story is clearly defined than ever. Even better, we are more unified in our anything story than ever before. The path before us isn’t crystal clear, but the fog has lifted a bit and we are able to see further ahead. The images are sharper, the signage along the way is easy to decipher and our path is unified.
Understanding the reality of how we have come to grow most unified in our continually unraveling anything story has developed from taking time on the back end of a wilderness season to reflect and realize how many anything prayers God has answered along our journey. Our ache for surrender was present before Jennie wrote Anything, and yet her words have given framework and deeper understanding of our journey. Most importantly, Anything has reminded us we are not alone in this adventure called life.
So what is our anything story? God has called us to serve college campuses by using football to teach men that life is about more than a game and to teach women that God is pursuing them individually. We do this by supporting and walking alongside students as they seek the truth, understanding that God is big enough to reveal Himself how He chooses when He chooses. Our call is to love those around us fiercely, while at the same time being unwilling to sit by and accept students living second-best lives.