The Brendtros have now officially lived in Florida 1 year! If we haven’t written as much on LOTF, it’s because we’ve spent quality time this year enjoying what the Panhandle offers. While we miss our people and places in Nashville, living near the ocean is a dream come true! We have a new house, a beach pass, and a 3-foot backyard gator. (You can guess which thing we are less excited about.)
Nearly five years ago, we said goodbye to Kansas City. We believed God had more for our family and a new location would free us up to uncover just what that meant. In the process, we resigned from a church organization that dominated our time. This was a difficult and scary decision.
A message preached there often was “call the tree (the organization) good or call it bad” referencing the cursed fig tree in the gospel of Matthew. If the place is good, we should have no reason to leave, right? We lingered. We felt strange for even wondering. This message detracted from the real question: “Is this organization draining the life out of our family, while God is calling us into abundant life?” The answer was, unfortunately, a resounding yes. We mistakenly though the Organization was what kept our life – family, marriage, health, finances – together. It was time to put our faith in God and strike out, like Abraham, for a new place.
Faith is Gutsy
Settled in Nashville, we went from tending to church duties and services five times a week to zilch. Nada. Nothing. We sat in our new living room and asked each other, “Are we even saved?” It’s funny now, sure; but at that moment, we felt like two wide-eyed and shaky kids. Friends, faith often lands you in a place where you question your sanity. We had to just keep going back to the Word. Was our God capable and faithful or not?
Psalm 32:7-8 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
Reviving Family Life
Our focus was to discover and rebuild our family life. A group of friends moved to Nashville a few months after us, but for the most part, we were anonymous – exactly what we needed most! We didn’t sign up for anything, there was no need to rush out the door for church, no group to host and no ministry calls or texts to answer.
So instead, we had long, lazy dinners. We sat eye to eye and simply got reacquainted. We made pizza from scratch and rented movies. We grabbed our boots and went for hikes. We explored museums, dined out, found farmer’s markets, silly parades, and little festivals. We joined scouts and met all our neighbors. We are a self-employed and homeschooling family. We finally capitalized on that to travel as much as we pleased, at the drop of a hat – Hawaii, Mexico, Florida, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina…
The Lord led us to a small, warm church in Franklin, TN called Gateway. We never officially joined and they didn’t quiz us about what we could offer. Instead, they befriended us. For 3 years solid we cried through worship, healing tears. We sat through gentle, profound sermons and soaked up the thick grace of a kind God. We cautiously shared bits of our story and were stunned to find it echoed back. We were not alone.
For 3 years, God set us up to simply rest and recover, forming life-long friendships in the process. Everything there was salve for our weary souls. God downloaded these three powerful lessons in our family.
1. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. We reflect on that moment in our living room, two exhausted and broken people wondering if God was still with them. Now that we have experienced some of the adventures God planned for the Brendtros, we shake our head in disbelief. How can we expect to impact our world if we are weighed down and overworked? How can we win our kids’ hearts when family time is frequently diverted for something that isn’t joyful? They need to experience the joy of our faith along side us.
Serving should spark joy. If it feels like a drain, even if someone else finds it joyful, something is off. Maybe we are overcommitted; maybe we have completely missed the sphere God created us to thrive in. In order to uncover joy, it’s necessary to regularly tamper with our life formula. If we freeze up, we risk missing out on our family’s best life.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
2. Everything is yes and amen. There are no rules about what we are and are not allowed to do by faith, and men cannot impose extra rules on us. God is a Creator who empowers us to create a life that feels brilliant. We are full of the Holy Spirit. Whatever we dream, the sky is the limit. God partners with us as we build it – encouraging, empowering, and surrounding. Does that mean we move independent from God? Far from it! Because we have faith in his goodness and a new understanding of his will, our family is more reliant on him than ever. The joy of the Lord about us is our strength!
Philippians 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
3. God loved us before we were useful, and he isn’t waiting for us to get busy in order to become valuable and holy. We realized during our time serving in Kansas City, we had fallen into the age-old trap of the Pharisees. They were so busy carrying out their religion, they missed the One! A regimen that once was joyful had become a tomb. As we recovered, we saw that we used minsitry to give us assurance and connection to God. We were addicted to busyness for self-worth. But the truth is, it’s only the blood of Jesus that makes us worthy, and that is right now.
Colossians 1:22-23 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless (now) as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the you received when you heard the Good News.
Faith Pays Off
These truths still guide us, as we establish our family in Florida. God has only been good to us. The kids are involved in sports, scouting, and groups that build character and community. We treasure our homeschool co-op and league. Melissa is working on a university degree and Steve is flourishing in his financial tech business, developing more ideas and connections. And we have a new church. (If you told us 5 years ago that we would be spirit-filled Baptists (“Bapticostals”) living in Florida, our jaw would have positively hit the floor.)
Every step of the way, God has been with us. Our health and finances, plus our marriage and connection to our kids, is positively thriving. We truly “lack no good thing!” We’re incredibly grateful for our faith, friends, and for the Word of God that gives us courage. Our Heavenly Father has the last word concerning the Brendtros, and it’s always good.