You know the old saying, “You never appreciate how many great mentors you have in your life until you ask them to write blog posts for your marriage blog?” No? No one? Well we’ll call it a new phrase then.
Walk into the Hebrews coffee shop in tiny Perry, Oklahoma and it’ll feel less like a small town and more like an uptown cafe in a much larger city. With towering front windows that look out onto the courthouse lawn, massive ceilings, and local artwork covering the exposed brick walls, I sometimes giggle to think that this little town barely knows what hit it. I (Jen) had the great pleasure of working with Tina at our church in Oklahoma until she and her husband followed God’s calling to an unlikely and often forgotten place: small town Oklahoma. Three cheers for their courage and all they’re doing to advance the gospel in small places. Try not to smell the coffee and muffins as you read. I dare you.
Someone asked us at the counter last week if opening up a coffee shop had been our lifelong dream. Brian and I just looked at each other and smiled a secret smile that 28 1/2 years of marriage lets us do. The short answer was, “No, it wasn’t our dream. It was God’s plan for us.” Our education background is education and psychology. We’ve taught school, worked in career services at Oklahoma State University, and most recently, LifeChurch.tv. Our restaurant experience together totals 1-2 years tops–mine at Hardee’s the summer after high school, and Brian’s at Eskimo Joe’s.
For the first 21 years of our marriage, Brian and I did not follow Christ. We re-committed our lives in 2005, and since we were such late bloomers, we both prayed boldly that God would use us however He saw fit. We acknowledged that our lives no longer belonged to us and we were willing to answer His call, whatever that might be. God answered our prayer by putting us on the fast track to living a life for Him. We started attending LifeChurch.tv in Stillwater, began volunteering after 6 months, joined a lifegroup for 5 months, then led one the next fall. During this time, God was working behind the scenes, and before we knew it we became employeess at LifeChurch.tv in jobs that neither one of us applied for.
Several months after starting his job in Edmond, Brian felt God calling him to plant a church. He was commuting back and forth from Stillwater every day–a forty-five minute drive each way. Brian and God had many conversations during his commute. It took a handful of months, and many conversations for Brian to accept this calling from God. You must know that he is introverted by nature and he’s also a high “thinker” on the Myers-Briggs personality scale, so while all this was going on, he was keeping it between himself and God. In my little world, I was just getting used to joining the workforce after 11 years of homeschooling the kids and working from home. This change was a major adjustment for me and for our family as a whole.
Needless to say, when Brian finally decided to share what God had put on his heart 6 months earlier, the timing was not great and the declaration was met with tears…many tears on my part (By the way, I’m a high “feeler” on the personality scale–yes, opposites do attract and marriages can work!) However, God knew what he was doing and he had put us right where He wanted us. We continued to work and grow in our relationship with God and in our positions at LC.tv, literally soaking up all we could from the amazing environment we found ourselves in 7 days a week.
Fast forward 2 years. I got over the tears for the most part. God helped me get on board when he gave me a double SOS during a fast–Surrender, Obey & Submit and Serve Others Sacrificially. He let us know that planting a coffee shop along with the church would be our passport into the community. We discovered that He brought us to Perry to build relationships (through HeBrews, the coffee shop we now operate), change lives (which we have seen and continue to see over and over), unite churches (we have a growing relationship with a local church and share distribution in their food ministry), and transform the community (this one is on the horizon, and is multi-faceted; God is moving and stirring us with His work and plans at present).
Looking back we feel like God was preparing us all along to work side by side, even when we weren’t following Him. We taught school together, worked at OSU together, worked at LifeChurch.tv together, and now spend nearly all of our waking hours working side by side at HeBrews doing the work God has called us to do.
Our days are long, but fulfilling. We get along without tension or irritation 97% of the time. (The other 3% might be a different blog post altogether!!) In the year HeBrews has been open, we have shared in life-change stories told at the counter, at a table over a cup of coffee, or in the experience room during one of our two weekly church services. Whenever we wonder if making mochas, baking blueberry muffins, or mopping floors is really what God wants us to do, all we have to do is reflect on stories told, or listen to people right in front of us, and anticipate the stories that have yet to be told.
Build relationships, change lives, unite churches, and transform the community. That’s the vision God has given us here. Staying laser-focused on His plan for us requires us to remember Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light for my path.” One step of obedience at a time while he reveals each step through His word, His people, circumstances and prayer.
No, we didn’t have a lifelong dream to open a coffee shop or plant a church, but God had that dream for us. He knew long before we gave our lives to Him what He had in store for us. Now it is our privilege to carry out those plans each morning at 6am as we make our way down to HeBrews to serve the people in Perry…the people He has called us to serve.