LOVE HAS COME TO WALK AMONG US.
– MICHAEL W. SMITH, ANTHEM FOR CHRISTMAS
WITH US. AMONG US.
IN THE PLACE WHERE WE DWELL.
This year, the place where the Lott’s dwell is a little bit up in the air. A little over two years ago, the Lord started to tug on Kevin’s heart. He armed Kevin with the gospel and sent him to a little town called Machachi, Ecuador. Since that time, Kevin has made five visits to this beautiful land and God has continued to tug and to call and to remind us that our purpose is to make disciples. So we started praying. And praying and praying and praying.
We didn’t know what exactly we were being drawn to. We wondered if we needed to prayerfully refocus our ministry at First Baptist in Camden, where Kevin was serving as the youth minister…some days, we wondered if we needed to pack our bags and plant ourselves in Machachi! We weren’t looking for a new job. We weren’t looking at all. We just knew God was tugging on our hearts. We didn’t send out a single resume. We just prayed. Through all of this praying and seeking and wondering, God has been faithful. He hasn’t left us just sitting and wondering. He has used us and He has changed us.
During the time when we were seeking and wondering how God was directing us, He was simultaneously giving us a deep contentment and joy in the place where He had us here in Camden. He allowed us to see His saving power time and time again in Machachi. He brought us students and young couples to disciple. He gave us wise and encouraging mentors and we watched Him at work in our lives and in the lives of others around us.
God has blessed our family. He has given our children some of their first friends. Kevin has been able to be a part of coaching Graham’s first two sports teams and we’ve enjoyed watching Kate, our little tippy-toe queen perform in two ballets with her dance school. Along the way, we’ve been constantly entertained by Hollis, who is our resident comedian and linebacker-in-training. And everyone has been totally and completely guilty of spoiling Maddox – our sweet and quite adorable littlest Lott. It’s been a special blessing for me to have the opportunity to start homeschooling our crew this past August as Kate started kindergarten. What a challenging blessing it’s been so far!
Over the past two years as we’ve been praying and waiting, God has been growing and changing and blessing. By the time we were contacted by Radius Church in April, we weren’t sure we were ready to hear God’s answer. We were, however, blessed to develop a relationship with them over the summer and very encouraged by some new relationships and ministry partners. But, at the time, neither our family, nor the staff at Radius felt like we were the right fit for the opening they had. So we went back to praying.
We started another year with an amazing group of students in Camden. We made new friends in our homeschooling group. We watched more teams go to Machachi and rejoiced over the people there who were putting their hope in our Savior. About that time, God continued to allow our paths to cross with several groups of church planters – from long-time friends in North Carolina, new friends here in South Carolina and all the way to New York City! We both began to have a desire to learn more about how God was growing His kingdom through church planting.
Around about the end of September, we had an opportunity to be involved with a church plant in Greenville, SC. We were really excited and just knew this was what God had planned for our family. But as we took some time to pray about it, we were plagued with questions….
Why church planting?
What do we really believe about planting churches?
What gifts do we have that we feel God wants us to use to accomplish His purposes?
Will they fit in with this church plant?
What about long-term?
We had no peace. But, God had a plan. He was clarifying our vision. He used that opportunity to grow an interest in church planting, but also to prompt us to give that interest to Him. To ask Him to lead and to clarify and to put in OUR HEARTS what was in HIS HEART for our OUR FAMILY in a really specific way. So we prayed again.
This time it wasn’t for long. That same week, Kevin sat down to lunch with our new friends from Radius Church and they had an idea that, at first, didn’t seem like what we were really expecting the Lord to do in our family. They wanted Kevin to come serve as their high school student minister as well as to be involved in missions and discipleship at their church. Initially we thought, “But student ministry is what we are already doing. We love our students here and God is using us here. Why on earth would we go somewhere else to do what we’re already doing here?” Though it made no sense to us, we couldn’t let it go.
After much praying and talking and talking and praying, we knew God was in this. Twelve years ago when Kevin first said “yes” to vocational ministry, God laid students on His heart. And students are still on our hearts. We love students. We’ll always be involved in student ministry in some way because we believe in being Titus 2 men and women that pour our lives into the generations. We also know that we’ll always be involved in the making of disciples. We see and believe that God accomplishes much from believers walking out their faith together and desire to always be a part of that process. But, more than anything, we saw that, in this opportunity at Radius, God was using the very seed that started this longing: missions. We just couldn’t get past the reality that Kevin would have a chance to use the experience and the passion that he gained from his time in Ecuador to invest in missions on a regular basis!
BUT. There were two really big “BUTS” in the way. (Yes, I know. Go ahead and laugh. Out loud.) The first was: money. To make the move to Radius, we would have to be willing to take a pay cut and move to a more expensive area. That kind of proposition was relatively “easy” when it was just me and Kevin and we were moving to seminary. But with FOUR KIDS? We had some wrestling to do. Church-y people have a saying that says, “Where God guides, He provides.” It is true. We’ve experienced it time after time. We spent two years on one income with two kids and Kevin in school. And $10,000 worth of hospital bills. And cars that needed replacing. Friends, God does provide. He still rains manna. He does. But to willingly walk into a situation where we don’t see His provision? With four kids? It just got REAL.
And two: location. We knew (and know) that God could (and still can) totally change our hearts on this, but we just really didn’t see Him landing us in the midlands of South Carolina forever. Don’t get me wrong: we L-O-V-E our state. Here’s the quick sell: Beach. Mountains. Four hours apart. Sweet Tea. Charleston. Family. Yeah. We love it here. But there are a L-O-T of churches here. Kevin’s missions experiences and the whole church planting thing God was interesting us in called us to give an account for why we, personally, would stay and work in a place where the gospel is readily available on every corner.
Kevin ended up going back to the staff and Radius and saying something like, This sounds really good. Except, I have this burden God is giving me for missions, for pastoring, maybe even for church planting. Jenn and I don’t know if that means SC forever. And they rejoiced! They let Kevin know that they are all about equipping their people and sending them out to accomplish the mission that God lays on their hearts. In one conversation, this became more than a job: it became an equipping opportunity. A chance to learn and train and grow. And then to go.
After that, we knew that God was asking us to follow Him to Radius Church. That meant we knew that we had to trust Him with the money. And so, at the end of October, we said “yes.” We said yes to this opportunity at Radius and yes to the unknown going that may come in a couple years. We don’t know what that going will look like and when or if it will happen, but we said yes. We’re all in no matter where He leads.
Sitting here in the middle of December, we’re one week in to Kevin’s new job. We’ve cried many tears and said our good-byes to our precious family at FBC Camden. We’ve spent just a few days getting to know the staff and family at Radius. And it has been superbly amazing TOUGH.
Tough because we haven’t sold our house. We’re living forty-five minutes (unless it’s rush hour…) from our community. The kids and I are more than happy to do life here in Camden with all the people we already know and love and to continue to enjoy the home that has witnessed the last four years of our lives, but we feel, in ways, like a house divided. Tough because, in many ways, Kevin is living a totally different life than the rest of us are right now. We’re already feeling the strain that the long hours of ministry + a long commute puts on our family dynamic. Tough because we spent a month saying tearful goodbyes to friends here in Camden – and then we didn’t leave. I hate, hate, hate the thought of the day our house sells and having to say goodbye all over again – for real this time. But, I long for our house to sell this very second so that we can serve as a family and all be a part of this thing God is doing in our lives. Tough because, the longer we stay in Camden, the more I just want to stay in Camden. Then I visit our church in Lexington and I want to be there working alongside the body there. I’m torn. Tough because I’m waiting again. More waiting and more praying.
And that’s the thing about our testimonies. About God’s work in our lives. They are never one moment. They build on one another. Here I am, here we are again, waiting and praying. It’s tempting to despair. And then I remember the waiting we did to get to this place. I remember that, even in the waiting, God used us. I remember that, even in the going nowhere and seeing no end in sight, that God grew us. And I remember that He answered. And that when He answered, it was good.
The other thing about testimonies? About our stories and what God has brought us through? They aren’t individual. They aren’t just for ourselves and we don’t need to only look to ourselves. In these moments where it feels like God is silent, where it’s easy to look around and see stress and danger and exhaustion and doubt and bitterness looming, it’s tempting to pull an Israel and say, God, why have You brought us out in the wilderness so that we may die? I really do think that one day I started a prayer off like this, God, I don’t see why You led us here and then left…. And immediately the Spirit brought the Red Sea to mind. God was lovingly and quite directly saying to me, Are you going to learn anything from My people? Did they not doubt? Did they not shake their fist in My face and say the same thing? And yet, how did I take care of them? And what can I say but, You parted the sea and drowned an army. You rained down food from the heavens. I guess I can’t argue with those things. I am so thankful that we learn from one another. That God didn’t intend for us to battle alone or to celebrate alone. The faithful Words recorded in Scripture and the stories of victory from the Body of Christ in our lives are there for a purpose – we cling to them when it’s hard for us to see.
And then there’s Emmanuel. The God that is WITH US. The God who commanded us in Joshua, Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is WITH YOU WHERE EVER YOU GO is the God who promised us in Matthew that He is with us always, even to the end of the age. He is the same God who came in the most frail human form and surrendered Himself to the care of an earthly mother and father. Who gave of Himself to the selfish, greedy, lonely, sick, discouraged, doubting people all for the purpose of giving Himself over to die the death of a guilty man. For OUR GOOD. That we may know His love. The One who loved us walked among us. And, as our choir so beautifully proclaimed this weekend, HE’S STILL EMMANUEL.
This trying time that our family is going through is nothing compared to the heart ache and pain that many of the families we love are struggling through this Christmas. Nothing. But, it is real to us. It’s what challenges our hearts in this season and it makes us look forward to the day of His answer. In it, we are clinging to a command and a promise: that we rejoice in the Lord always and that He is the promised Emmanuel. He God and He is with us, among us. In the place where we dwell, where ever that place may be.
We pray that you and your family will know His nearness today and in the coming year. That where ever you are dwelling, you will call to Him knowing that He will draw near to you.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
LOVE, THE LOTT FAMILY