This post has taken a year to write. It was initially drafted in my mind with different versions coming alive during the most simple of situations: while taking our children to the bus stop, when driving to work, and even during walks around our neighborhood. This post is about the journey our family has been on since July 2017. While change is inevitable it’s not always easy and during this adjustment we’ve held on to the One who provides certainty. As we seek God’s purpose for our lives it is evident His promises are true. He continues to deliver us on an adventure that fulfills one of the most mysterious scriptures for the human heart.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Life abundantly can be described in so many ways. Many times it is incorrectly associated with the lies that the more you have – more money, more stuff, even more sophisticated roles and job titles – the happier you will be. Our world sells us these lies. But this last year, for all the ups and downs inherent to change, we experienced the abundant life in the adventure. New memories that linked our hearts to our souls. And we experienced it on the wings of a red cardinal.
Waiting on His calling
We spent 11 years of our life in Raleigh, NC. We loved the city and in many ways considered it our hometown in America. While Courtney and I did not grow up in Raleigh we built some of our most special memories there. It’s the city we got married in, our 3 children were born there and it’s where we became home owners for the first time. Most importantly, we built friendships that will last a lifetime. We saw God move in our hearts and in the hearts of others around us. It was during this time we first noticed the beautiful red cardinals that would visit us in the back yard. In many ways this was the perfect town for us to settle. But God doesn’t call us to settle.
We always wanted our family to be a catalyst for change. There are specific moments in life when something pulls you in and grabs your attention. We’ve experienced this before as we’ve tried to live on mission. Making choices in light of the One who made us. It was this way when we moved from Portugal to the United States. This time though we both had the feeling that this was about something bigger than a career… something more meaningful than a neighborhood… something more influential than a school district… We began to feel the freedom that with God by our side we, as a family of 5, could move anywhere. Our church in Raleigh had a simple way of putting this mindset into perspective.
Reach the Triangle and Change the World.
Hope Community Church
We were ready to leave it all behind in pursuit of a life filled with purpose. Courtney’s biggest fear to sell our home as a result of pursuing full time mission work was removed. And so we told God we would go wherever He would send us. We thought of Africa.
Hearing His calling
I can recall our decision to embrace this new take on our life as we told friends and family that we would wait on God to show us where to go. It was Easter Sunday 2017 when we told family that we would pick up and move on God’s command. Within 30 minutes I was called by a recruiter with my company to interview for a new position. (No, that’s not an exaggeration. And yes, it was Easter Sunday!) In less than 2 weeks I had 3 face-to-face meetings and an offer placed on the table for our family to relocate to Charlotte. In a total of 6 weeks we sold our home and were living in a new city. God’s answer made Charlotte our “Africa”.
We didn’t plan this move. I could tell you to look at my life’s journey and pretend that I plotted our every step as a great story of my intelligence. The reality is… I’m simply not that smart! Yes, we’ve made decisions. Some risky and some calculated. But most importantly we’ve made ourselves available to listen to God. Our family has sought His will even when trials blurred our vision.
Seeing Him Calling
There is this story in the Bible when Gideon asks God to show him a sign as a way to help him decide whether or not he should go to battle (Judges 6:36-40). Our family used his example to seek direction on where we would choose to live. On our 3-hour drive from Raleigh to Charlotte, Courtney and I shared about our own “fleece prayers” and the signs we were requesting from God. Courtney’s sign was quite specific while mine was… well, ambiguous. Courtney asked for a red male cardinal whereas I asked for… trees. While I found a way to highlight that we both identified our signs separate from each other (and you really can’t have a red cardinal without a tree) most of our family was dumfounded at my choice. Our daughter Ava put it best when she shouted from the back seat:
“Silly Daddy! Trees are EVERYWHERE!”
Yes, trees are everywhere but red cardinals are not. And so we visited different neighborhoods and homes with our prayer before the Lord. We waited anxiously for the right home to be placed before us. We had talks about how even if we found a perfect fit that we would wait until God showed up as a sign that this was his blessing to us! We first became aware of this house through a facebook request posted online. We were seeking the possibility of an unlisted home in a well sought out neighborhood perfectly located near Uptown Charlotte. Someone responded as possibly being interested in selling within our price range and we went to take a look.
On our first visit, no cardinal showed up, just some trees. With a bit of disappoinment and truly leaning into God’s ability to provide an answer, we took the weekend to process and pray. On our second visit we got a chance to walk through it with our realtor. Courtney checked the backyard layout and something urged her to nod her head upward. There amidst a forest of trees she landed her eyes on that male red cardinal. She could hardly contain herself and began running towards the house to grab me and show me the bird! She had seen the familiar shades of red that so many times visited us in Raleigh.
You see we’ve had ups and downs just like all families in any city. During some of our best and hardest moments – birthday celebrations, school frustrations, neighborhood cookouts and house projects gone wrong – we often saw a red cardinal from our bay window as a reminder that abundant life is only in Jesus! The experiences He gives us allow us to grow in our faith in Him.
God allowed us to ride on the wings of a red cardinal as he delivered his promise of life to the fullest. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the previous owners wrote scripture on the beams and foundation as this home was being constructed. Yes, it is just a house. But one that was planned for us. A safe place for us to meditate. A new location for our children to grow. An opportunity for us to reflect God’s love to the people around us.
This blog post tells only a part of our story. There are still chapters left to write: Why are we here? In this neighborhood? In this community? In this city? We believe we were meant to be here and we invite you to journey along with us.