To answer the question most will be thinking by the end of this post – Yes, we are crazy.
This year has been a whirlwind. Though there were many things to be excited about, the truth is, it’s been a pretty dry season for the both of us. Granted, Jesus is always good and would give us glimpses of sunshine and scattered rain showers, but overall, this year has been a little overcast and dry. Of course the mundane of working jobs we aren’t passionate about won’t compare to the daily ministries we had years ago. And now we’re married, done school, working, building a youth ministry and working on a house – but I’ll get to all that.
In June, while we were questioning whether our geographical location was the cause for our spiritual state of feeling drained, our beloved pastor from Potter’s Field came through Philly while on tour. (Potter’s Field Ministries is a multifaceted organization, but their missions training program is where Brandon and I met in July 2012.) Pastor Michael has an incredible gift of prophecy and rallying up the troops to live a higher calling. He has a way of looking through you, directly into your soul and speaking life and truth into your life. God’s timing of bringing Pastor Michael around is always impeccable.
We met with him and the touring crew a few times while they were here, and on a Thursday night we had dinner and talked with Pastor Michael about coming back to serve with Potter’s Field. Brandon was sold, but I wasn’t quite sure yet. Meanwhile I had been having really bad cramps for a week, and finally, after crying for a few days, I typed in google “unbearable cramps” on Friday morning (sorry for the TMI). The whole first page was loaded with people saying “I was 5 weeks pregnant!”…
We found out the next day that we were, in fact, expecting a baby!
This didn’t close the door to Potter’s Field, and after another private conversation with Pastor Michael, I realized I was unsurrendered to the Lord. That Sunday, 24 hours after finding out we were expecting our firstborn, the Lord convicted my heart to be surrendered to His will – whatever the cost. The comforts, the finances, family, my “home”… I finally surrendered all to Him once again and was okay with wherever He called us and whatever He called us to do.
Oh yea, did I mention that we thought we would be going to Montana by August? That was two months away.
We did a lot of praying and came to the conclusion that the Lord was leading us to stay here. We would have the baby here and then possibly go with PFM by May 2017. (A lot of factors determined this: insurance, school loans getting paid off, the fact that I NEED my mom during labor, etc.)
However, we continued seeking the Lord and being faithful in the ministries we were serving in in our church. Brandon was on the worship team and I was involved in children’s ministry. We were also asked to be a part of a Core Team that our pastor was putting together – a group of young married couples who would help him replant this church that had been around for centuries. Over hundreds of years, tradition and religion began defining this church instead of reckless abandonment to the Gospel. (Super cool side note, Nate Saint and his family went to our church.)
Continuing in prayer and the ministry placed before us, we felt the Lord leading us to stay here for this season. We are excited about the work God is doing here in us, our church and our ministries. We started a youth group a few months ago and really love and care for these kids. We are still involved in the other ministries and the Core Team. We have finally met brothers and sisters who are real, in the same season of life as us, and understand the importance of “doing life together.” This is what was really lacking and what we really felt was missing in our life. So we are so grateful for them.
Brandon also started a “Cappuccino Sunday” ministry (if that’s what it should be called) where we have friends over after church and he makes everyone a cappuccino. It’s pretty much the highlight of his week.
Convinced this is in fact the Lord’s doing, we began to be open to the possibility of buying a house. On November 1st, we made settlement on a house previously owned by really sweet, godly people. We feel as though the Lord totally had this house for us and His hand on the whole interaction.
Right now, we are busy working on the house, continuing with the youth group, and still learning to balance life. Oh yea, we also are in the process of training a puppy. Sameen Shaw Shackelford joined the family on October 29th and though she’s cute as can be, she is tiring and a poopy mess at times. Like I said in the first line, yes, we are crazy.
A puppy, a house and a baby all within three months seems to be the true Brandon Shackelford way!
We are excited for what’s ahead and can’t wait to meet our son in February. We look forward to our own spiritual growth, growth in our relationships, the church, and in the lives of our youth. Please be in prayer for the ministries and us throughout this transitional time.
Much Love -Ashley