Many of you know my sweet friend, Alicia Mattern. I have been journeying with Alicia for years now and have been so blessed by her friendship. Recently, Alicia and her husband, Will, along with their two girls, Ally and Mary Grayson moved from Flowood, MS to Madison, MS. This move seemed sudden and very surprising to those watching from the outside, however, it was anything BUT surprising or sudden for those of us involved in the details. It was a blessing to see God leading their family to a divine appointment. It is a story that began with HIM and will end with HIM.
I invited Alicia to do a guest blog post to share her story. I hope you enjoy reading it!
I figured if Ellen Degeneres could have special guest so could Abby.
What a journey! It seems so quick to the world and leaves many with questions. Believe me I have asked a few questions myself. My sweet friends/family and actually complete strangers have been so huge in this. They have listened to my heart process.
In 2012, Will and I began a journey asking God where he desired for our children to go to school. Sweet Will was very patient with me as I wanted to tour every school in Rankin and Madison County. I even thought I wanted to tour the high schools. A shout out to Kelly Kuykendall for reminding me I did not have to decide on high school – I had to decide on kindergarten. It is one thing to pray for God’s will for my own life, but to pray it for my children was another pressure for me.
I recently found a journal that I wrote as I toured schools at that time - The journal was asking god a lot of questions and praying for wisdom. At that time Will felt like ultimately we would be in Madison but I did not feel like God was finished with us in Rankin county. David Horner taught me years ago that God often begins to a stir in us a passion for something long before it’s fruition.
Renee Williams (a sweet friend that God placed in my family’s life many years ago) spent the night with me in December 2012 and after many hours of catching up I told her about the prayer journey through schools. I felt like I didn’t even know what to pray anymore. I went to bed that night and asked God this question…. “Lord, teach me to pray?” God loves for us to ask for wisdom and he showed up so big. He didn’t only show up in regards to schools but in so many areas in our life. Within months we attended a two day conference known as College of Prayer at our church. That summer I went through the actual bible study by Kay Arthur “Lord teach me to pray.” God taught me so much in that question and prayer. I learned that a prayer journey was far more than just reaching the destination but finding joy in God’s presence in the journey. Chip helped me reframe my prayer life when he communicated... to seek God’s face and not just His hand.
We toured every school without knowing an answer. Then one day we walked the halls of Hartfield – I registered Ally immediately. The atmosphere was precious. The administration was great. The teachers were so sweet. The classroom size was smaller. Scripture was on the wall. I left with confidence that this was the perfectly safe environment I was felt would be best for Ally that was naturally timid. So we began to walk that out. We took our house off the market and began to put one foot in front of the other for the plans that we were confident in that moment.
A few months ago I was really wrestling with what God had for our family to look like. I wanted 2 more children. Will adamantly felt like the 2 children we have complete our family. I will never forget the place I was standing when Abby said, “Why don’t you and Will pray about it for 40 days to seek clarity?” I came home and enthusiastically told Will about the 40 day prayer journey I wanted to embark on. He enthusiastically did NOT feel the need to pray about growing our family but was willing.
After much discussion, Will agreed. We desired to be on the same page about the future of our family. But more importantly, we desired for our family to be in the will of God. So we began our 40 day prayer journey. We were faithful to pray and consistently ask God the same question. My question to God was “What do you have for our family to look like? What do you have our home to look like?” The journey ended with a shift of my heart to maybe not ever having more biological children, but instead a home that I could open the doors and allow anyone to walk through that needed to be loved. My heart shifted to be a family to anyone that needed one. I learned to trust that Will would always be willing to say yes to whatever God asked us to do.
Our prayer journey ended after 40 days, but what followed would rock our world.
Within a week of the 40 days being over a note was left on our door from someone that wanted to buy our house. (reminder there was no sign in the yard) A note that would change our life forever.
Wills OCD personality rose to the surface and within a week we had looked on the internet for houses, walked through houses, met with bankers, met with a builder (shout out to Tim Neese) – he ran along side of Will every step of the way as we looked at property to buy. Every blade of grass was looked at in Rankin County. Will drove from every neighborhood to see the exact time it would take for us to do life. Unfortunately, Will and I were not seeing eye to eye. Will wanted land. I wanted to run into my neighbor when I walked out the door. There was not one option that we both felt great about.
A friend called us about a house in a neighborhood in Madison. This was a neighborhood we had looked in before but was off our radar. I had only looked at Old Madison recently that would allow me to still do life in Flowood, the area that I had loved for 10 years. Instead, this was right in the middle of Madison and I knew the distance would not allow us to continue doing life routinely in Flowood. The house had a contract on it. I have no idea why we even went to look. We were both weary. Our children were beginning to think house hunting was our hobby. We walked in the house and within 3 minutes Will said, “I think this is our home.” WHAT?????? This was not my plan. This changed everything – schools, churches, friends…
That was a Tuesday.
Wednesday – I prayed and called in the troops for wisdom. My emotions were not lining up with the plan. I left messages with 2 women in my life that have walked me through many emotions.
We went back to look at it Thursday and I prayed and fasted. I spent the day with my mom. What a blessing to have someone listen to your heart that has known your heart since you cried your first cry. She reminded me that closing a chapter that I loved would be hard. It involved people that I cherish. But that just because it was hard did not mean it wasn’t right. The 2 women each left separate messages – one had no idea what school district our girls would be in but talked about how much she loved Madison Station (we serve a God of details) – this is the school where the girls will be going. The other left a message of her heart for Madison and provided amazing encouragement in that God can change our territory and reminded me that God had called Will to lead our family. She also reminded me that God often brings insight to the leader sooner than he does the follower. By the time I walked back through the house that night God had met me. My heart had shifted.
I graciously had friends ask me hard questions, pray earnestly, encourage me and listen to my heart when I did not even know what my heart felt….
I felt like I was walking through the stages of a job interview…You have a job that you love and another company calls you for an interview…There are many questions that have to be walked through…And then you learn the job requires you to move….The ONLY way you would take the job is if you felt like GOD had called you to take it. I was sitting on the beach when Amy Horner asked me the question “Is it a calling?” At the time she asked that I think Will would have said YES, but I was not there yet. My heart was hesitant – saying “yes” to God was saying “no” to a lot of things that I loved.
Our buyers buyer fell through…so he couldn’t buy our house…Yes the guy that left the note…Will met with Teresa Renkenberger…Will did not feel like the journey was over….Our house resold in 3 days…Formal contract on the new house was in writing and we found out at midnight on June 9th that it was formally ours….
Papers were signed on June 25th
We were about to sell the house we have called home, raised children in, let people live with us that needed a place in transition, the bible has been studied in, laughter has been shared….
On the 26th we closed on the house that we will call home until God changes our territory . So our next chapter begins….
I have processed more emotions in one month than I have in my entire life. Our routine has changed…New faces in the grocery store, new neighbors that I only know their name and not their life story, asking the question who is going to be my new 5 am running friend (Amy Sherman – I miss you!!!), a new school, new church, …
God has met me in so many ways it makes me smile - both spiritually and practically.
I’ll never forget when I was in the youth group swinging by a lake at a church camp and my heart was sad because the seniors were graduating. Mary Margaret Holliman said “Your sadness in goodbyes comes because you have loved. The alternative is to not love and then goodbyes will not be sad.” So today I am sad because I have loved so many people that have crossed my path in the last 10 years. My heart will forever be changed for my time in the Reservoir area.
I began to worship today at church and the song was sung “The maker of the heavens knows my name.” My heart sunk as I thought He knows my name but not many people in this room do. The sermon of the cross reminded me of the rest of the song.
The make of the heavens knows my name...the author of the oceans gave me grace...My soul, my soul will ever sing your praise - Almighty God, almighty God...Your touch can set the weary captives free...Your love has changed the course of history...and with your arms wide open...you gave your life to save...The hands that formed creation were pierced for me that day….
I can not wait to see what God has next for us as he continues to unfold what he has for our family and our home to look like. If I had to answer that question today that Amy asked me on the beach “Is this a calling?” My answer would be YES. I can’t wait to wake up each morning and love God and love the new people God has put in my path. I can not wait to know the story of the faces that are in my routine.