Wherever I Send You, Whatever it Costs You

from livethemma.ikea.se via Berber on Pinterest

A week and a half ago, prior to my grandfather’s funeral, as I ate a large family meal in the fellowship hall of the Boyett Baptist Church (no, that’s not really its name!), I encountered a third or fourth cousin, someone I hadn’t seen since my high school years when I’m sure we talked at some Oklahoma-located family reunion. She came to greet me, reminded me of her name.

Then she said: “Last time I saw you, you were going to be a missionary!” She smiled, as if to say, Wasn’t that cute! or Look at you now! Actually, I’m not sure what she meant. What I heard was a dull clang in my gut, a broken piece of me, an unfulfilled calling.

Of course, she couldn’t have known that my claim toward missions as a 16-year-old was not some naïve silliness. I may have been naïve, but it was real. When I was “called” to missions, it was the most authentic encounter I’ve ever had with God: His voice asking me if I’d go wherever he asked, no matter what he asked me to leave behind. My tender heart begged for some other way. And then, months later, like some deliberating heroine in a Jane Austen novel, I gave my Yes.

When I was seventeen, I went on a mission trip to the Amazon. I traveled with twenty other 15 to 18 year-olds by boat along the Rio Negro, moving from village to village, bringing supplies, children’s crafts and bible studies, and an overabundance of American-Evangelical-Portuguese-Tracts. I may have been ignorant, but still, I loved and ate with and played soccer with the dear people I met. For all my faults, I longed for their hearts. I turned cartwheels with the children. I sang songs with them in Portuguese.

One night, toward the end of the ten days we’d spent on the water and in the villages, I stood alone on the edge of the boat, looking over the dark water, stunned by the brilliance of the stars in that vast sky. (I’ve still seen nothing to equal its beauty.) And I asked God for confirmation. I was going to college and I was ready to commit. I was going to be a missionary. I was willing to suffer. (In my mind, suffering included: hut dwelling, kaki short and hiking boot wearing, and non-marriage for the sake of missions.)

I said, “God, just tell me. Please, just tell if I’m supposed to be a missionary.”

That’s when God’s voice broke metaphor all over me. I felt the Spirit whoosh through me as if to say: This. This thing I’m about to say is the Big Thing.

This is what I heard whispered secret in my head:

Micha, look at this river. Look at its depth. See how wide it spreads. My love is like this, as wide as you can see but moving. Always moving. This is what you need to know: Stay in the river. Let it carry you. Let it cover every part of you, head to toe. Dip under it. Swim in it. Float on it. But always choose this river. Stay in my Love.

There will be different boats. You’ll get on and it will move you along. You’ll stop at a village and you’ll get out. Love the people in that village. Give them what you have to offer. And when I tell you to, get back on the boat.

There will be different villages and there will be different boats. You don’t have to worry about those things. What matters in the river, sweet girl. Stay on the river.

That was it. I cried while God spoke those words to me. I knew what he meant. I knew in my gut it was true. And I knew his answer was not specific to my being a freshman in college. I knew it weighed more, cost more. I knew these were words that needed to settle in me.

Friend, every time I’m asked to leave the village I’ve been given, my heart has broken. Every time my plans have changed. I have begged God:

Let me love that college boy! Let me stay with my best friend all my life! Let me go to the mission field in Kenya! Don’t keep me from this! Let me publish these poems! Let me stay in Philadelphia! Let me live in a warmer climate! Let me choose what I WANT for my kids’ lives. Let me give them a yard and a playscape and an affordable preschool experience! Let me live near my family because they need me! Let me write this book on my own terms!

And every time, God whispers, “Micha, it’s time to get back on the boat, darling. It’s time.”

I want to kick! Why? Why do my friends get to stay in ONE PLACE and make friends that last longer than one year? ONE YEAR? This was my plan, God. Austin was supposed to be home for a long time. We were happy here.

When Chris calls me from Austin and I’m at my parents’ house and my kids are running around outside with their cousins and I’m walking over nephews on the living room floor, I hear the Sad Tired in his voice, I take the phone to the bathroom, turn on the heat lamp so no one hears my breath suck in. I know something’s coming.

They want us to move, he says. What he means is if he wants to keep his job, we move. That’s it. The Big They, the ones who make the decisions that change my life. They have decided that I will live in a new town. They have decided that my son won’t learn to say “Yes, Ma’am” like his polite little Texas buddies. (The Yes Ma’am culture is a small one.) The Big They have chosen that we will live in San Francisco…again.

And I cry on the phone with my husband. I say: I’m okay. I’m okay. You know I’ll go wherever you go. You know it. 

And when I hang up, I’m sitting on the side of the bathtub sobbing into my hands whispering things to God in incoherent phrases. Like: Preschool! There’s no way he can go to preschool now. I want them to be able to run. I want it to be easy. I want a babysitter so I can write. Oh God, I can’t afford to write this book.

I’m saying: How? And Why? And How can I bear it?

And then I wipe my eyes because it’s so tender and unreal that I can’t speak it yet. I walk out to the kids in the front yard taking turns with the plastic slide and the mini-trampoline and the grown ups on the porch swing.

Eleven months in Austin, I whisper to God in my head. Eleven months. Really? Because I know that the Big Corporate People who make the decisions to move my family are not the ones who choose the boats I get on and get off.

I know. If I asked you leave everything you know and follow me, will you go?

Yes, I whisper to this God who has taken me over and over to somewhere new, who always gives me grace to grieve and grace to set roots with hope. Yes, I whisper.

You know I’ll go wherever you go.

I lean into the river, baptized again. Its current takes me.

* * *

Friends, we’ll be moving back to San Francisco on October 1. But we have to be out of our house in Austin at the end of this month. I have a great big list and a preschool to find for my little boy. Also, I need to write a book. (No big deal, right?)

I’ll be taking a break from the blog for a few weeks while I pack my life here. I’ll still be around and will post sporadically and will be back in action by the first week of September.

And while I press pause for a bit, I’d love your prayers. Every time we move, it hurts me more. I’m a little bit broken right now and grieving this loss for all four of us.

Thanks for the love and support and friendship. I’ll be back soon…








  • Katherine

    My heart and prayers are with you. I too moved a great deal with my four children (four in 4 1/2) years. I too felt like every time I was where I should be and that clearly God had this place picked for us to stay, I got the very same phone call, and I became the cheerleader for the children. No matter how much my heart was breaking, I had to put on the “this is going to be the greatest adventure of our lives face.” I felt like a perpetual high school cheerleader.

    But, now 19 years into my marriage, my children are 12, 13, 15, and 16 and we’ve lived in 4 states and 2 countries. They say yes ma’m (I’m from Georgia), and they value family and friends. They have friends all over the world and thanks to technology they’ve stayed connected. They continue to love God and are active in church, and after all this time, in May I was ordained in the Episcopal Church. I don’t know what life will bring us next, and I do know that if we have to move before they are finished high school, I will kick and scream in the bathroom, in the garage, and in my car, but thanks to your post, I will climb into the boat ready for the next adventure.

    Thank you and may God bless you in the days to come.

  • Katherine

    And, their cousins who live in Virginia and NC (we’re now in KY) are they’re very best friends. We spent at least a week together every year for “Cousins Weekend”

  • http://tumbledweeds.wordpress.com campbell c. hoffman

    Of course we’ll be praying with you through this next thing. Transitions are tough. Sigh…

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    Your moment with God looking at the river made me weepy. I love how you honor your past self and the honesty of her love and her encounters with God. This is something your blog is teaching me: to value the different facets of my own journey. In the past, I’ve taken such a cynical line on those On-Fire days of mine; your words are giving me the grace to love the girl who wore the Go Against the Flow tshirt and meant it with all of her heart.

    Praying for you all as you make this transition, brave Micha. May you be unbelievably blessed.

    • http://www.amylepinepeterson.com Amy Lepine Peterson

      I love this comment, Addie. I was thinking the same thing about the respectful way Micha writes about her younger self and her whole faith journey. It’s lovely. And, if I can say so, I feel like I’ve seen the change in your writing that you mention- from more to less cynical.

      Sad for you, Micha, but trusting with you in God’s providential care.

  • Elizabeth

    Facing a big move for my family, too–only without your river experience. You don’t mind if I borrow yours, do you? Praying for you, and thank you for your words.

  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    I will pray for you. What you’ve written is so beautiful, as always. And oh, the “yes ma’am” club! And as a kid who moved around more than most (being a military brat will do that for you) I can tell you living in different places informed me, shaped me, was incredibly GOOD for me in a million different little ways. I know how much you long to give your boys structure, a yard, all those things – but they will grow up knowing that people are different and yet somehow the same, and their hearts will be compassionate and open and their minds, too. Love to you, dear friend.

  • http://www.livingpalm.blogspot.com Tamara @ This Sacramental life

    Micha, I’m glad forever that we got to swim in the same swimming hole for 11 months. And forever glad for the river that makes glad the eternal city of our God (which I’m quite positive is FULL of delightful coffee shops for us to talk to our heart’s content).

    Praying for you and holding you in my thoughts…

  • Felicity

    Ug. I’m so sorry for your loss. I remember how much it meant for you to be closer to your family. But, yes, always God is with us.

    We just moved to a new city, my husband’s hometown. Everything familiar and home to him. Everything new and foreign to me. But, yes, always God is with us.

    Blessings on your transition.

  • http://www.sortacrunchy.net/ Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Oh, sister. I’ve moved many times, but the move away from the Austin area broke me the hardest. I know it.

    What a beautiful picture God showed you in the river. How very like Him to speak to you over water. All of us, we all are in and out of boats and, I think, begging to stay most of the time. His words to you – thank you for sharing them. It is wisdom for many.

    I will remember you to the Lord each day as you pack and prepare. God has gone ahead of you in this, and I know He has made preparation. That freefall between the what you know and what waits for you is scary and honestly, it’s not fun. But know that He is there, waiting to catch you, ready to show you all He has done to prepare your arrival.


  • http://thesestones.wordpress.com Christine Gough

    I am a daily “blog stalker” and feel compelled to comment today. I saw the title of this post and thought, “no, there is NO way she is moving again!?!” And yet, yes. And so I will be praying for you and your family daily. Praying for peace as you pack. Peace as you parent. Peace as you and your husband hold things together to create calm for the boys. I have two boys, similar agers, and know the pulls of finding the right preschool. The right housing. The right church and support groups. One of the silver linings is the return to a place you know. But, I can only imagine, having working in young life and youth ministry, that leaving your girls/small group in Austin is heart-wrenching. Peace and Blessings and Calm in the midst of this unexpected adventure and journey.
    ~Christine Gough

  • http://dianerivers.me.com Diane Rivers

    I thought my heart would burst reading this post – the theme of surrender running through it, the clarity and depth of your love for God, and the love and dedication you have to your family, friends and wider community. I am inspired. And I see from the comments here that you have a wonderful support group cheering you on, people with so much wisdom who have experienced similar challenges, who articulate their thoughts and encouragement so well. What a gift. So glad I stopped by today. Now to find my Kleenexes . . .

    • Jeannie

      I was going to try to say something profound but this writer says exactly what I would have said only better so … what she said.

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    Oh, Micha. I know this feeling. I know how it feels to leave the people you love. And I know what it is to be called, gently but inexorably, to a new place.

    Blessings to you. I’ll be praying. xoxo

  • http://withoutcaringtwopence.wordpress.com/ Shannon

    Micha, I heard your big news from Peter just a few days ago. We’ve (Christ Church and our family personally) been so blessed by you and Chris in the short time we’ve had with you. I am sure of God’s sustaining power that is available for you right now, in your time of need. We will pray for Him to create new places and spaces for the kids and for yourself to grow and experience His goodness. I will see you soon! Let us know when you need some helping hands!

  • Haley

    Ohhh ouch. I am so sorry. Praying for you guys.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    Oh, Micha. My heart hurts for you. This beautifully, achingly written. And somehow, I needed to read it. I’ll be praying for you all as you prepare for this next transition.

  • http://www.kyndrasteinmann.com Kyndra

    Praying for you.. when the choice is between moving and employment you just have to go….and know that the Lord goes with you anywhere…..K

  • Maureen

    Definitely got a little teary eyed for you reading that, I’m sure you are exhausted on many fronts. I love the river metaphor. You are blessing and ministering to SO many people (more than you’ll ever know, I’m sure) along your way as you cross state lines (and back again). Through YL, as a mom, writer/blogger, friend, neighbor, stranger, church member, mentor…. whatever it may be….you have had an impact in this mobile-mission-field that God has you in. That being said, praying God keeps you put in one place for a bit that you feel like you can get rooted again (or at least bring you back to Philly? just maybe?). Love you guys. Praying for a smooth transition for all.

  • Missa

    Will be praying for you and your sweet family. So thankful for your awareness that God has awesome and incredible things in store, and am so blessed by the praise that rings in your words, even as upheaval happens. Will be praying for the over-the-top provision that will intersect You on that wild river of grace.
    In the 1st 6 yrs of my life, I moved 7 times. On my own, I’ve moved 12 times in the last 14 years and already am planning for #13 next summer (making 13 in 15 years!). If the moves stay hard or keep getting harder- it’s a reflection of living life right, instead of shuffling and shutting down. Hope in some way, that encourages you. Cheers, Dear Sister.

  • http://www.eloranicole.com eloranicole

    this was absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking and true. i’m praying – and hoping – for comfort and peace. austin will miss you.

  • http://sarahdunningpark.com Sarah Park

    Oh, friend!! I will be praying for you and Chris and the boys. Lots of love to you, Micha.

  • http://fionalynne.com/blog/ fiona lynne

    Praying for you as you walk through this again. Or drift through, carried on the river. Moving is just plain hard. But somehow I am learning that it is possible to be rooted, even when you’re not in one place long enough to put down roots… your writing is humble and beautiful and powerful – thank you.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com Kelly

    I have moved multiple times as well, and it is always heartbreaking to leave a place. I guess that is good to realize, because it means that each place I have been has had an impact on my life, and when it comes time to move again, I will know that the next place will also shape me.

  • http://spicymagnolia.com meghan

    It was so good to see you yesterday and to give you a hug. May the Lord ever so lovingly help, sustain and provide for you all in these coming weeks. You are precious to Him!

  • Clio

    Oh Micha. I am so sorry. I know how much it has meant to you to be close to your family, and back home in Texas. I know God is with you wherever you are, and I will pray for you that you can swim in that river of love through these difficult next few weeks.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    Oh, sweet girl. This is hard, hard, hard – and I am so very sorry. You know, from your own sweet experience on the river, that God goes with you wherever you are sent. But boy, right now? I wanna march into that mysterious board room and slap them silly! Do they not think about how this tears at families? You have a community where you’re going – that will help. But I am just heartbroken that it happens this fast, that you must leave your dear family, that your book will feel more burdensome than it should during this time. This much I know: God has been there before you, will go there with you and will bless and multiply the work of your oh-so-faithful hands. (If you ever need a getaway in CA, we’ve got guest rooms here in Santa Barbara. :>)

  • http://realconversationsbetweenfriends.blogspot.com/ Ann

    Micah, my favorite blog writer,
    When is see a post in my google reader that is from your blog I get so excited! These past weeks I have felt so sad for you. I wish you were my neighbor so I could lend you a head but know that I am with you in prayer.

    • http://realconversationsbetweenfriends.blogspot.com/ Ann

      “When I see..” (Commenting while listening to my second child crying for Momma to let her stay up longer:( )

  • http://glorianotes.com Sarah

    So sorry for this new transition and uncertainty. I understand the frustration of moving and the longing to find and stay “home.” In the meantime, welcome back to NorCal (I’m in Davis, used to be in Oakland). I’m the one with the baby born March 16, 2011, too. I enjoy your blog very much.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Micha, this is so beautiful and so difficult. But the image of staying in the river of God’s love? Of the boats and villages along the way? What a gift! Thank you for sharing it—we all need that love, that reminder. I’ll be praying…

  • http://www.findingfruit.net Jen

    I know this journey, the movement from village to village, never putting down roots but still feeling deep pain in saying goodbye again. We have had 11 addresses in 15 years of marriage, most of which were predicated by a company decision. And yet, God has always walked before us. Even here in the Bay Area where I found myself moving to again last summer. A scary place to live, financially. The cost of the babysitter so you can write, this I understand as my book has been pushed off to the side while my boys are home for the summer. It is scary to live here, but oh so beautiful and so full of amazing people. Best of luck on the move. Praying specifically for preschool – that was my biggest stress when we moved when our boys were younger.

  • http://barefooton45th.com Lesley

    Grieving with you. I know God will provide a boat, and the life jackets, and even snacks along the way… but it doesn’t mean the river isn’t bumpy and cold sometimes.

  • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

    I am exhausted for you, Micha. I hope you get some soul-rest in the weeks and months to come.

  • Becca

    My heart was breaking with you while I read this. I just graduated and left my own little community in Abilene for the first time. It was hard even now. I don’t have kids, and I haven’t moved much; I don’t really have any wisdom to offer you. But I wanted you to know that your writings have been an inspiration and comfort since I discovered this blog a couple years ago. And, for me, it has been a glimpse into the heart of God through some very difficult moments. All that to say, thank you, for yet another beautiful image of God’s grace. And you’ll be in my prayers.

  • Beth

    May you be happy, healthy and peaceful. May you be free from worry, anxiety and depression. May no troubles come your way. May your be free from anger ,hatred, and delusion. May you be able to handle the obstacles and trials in your life with peace, wisdom and understanding.
    Good luck on your journey.I will be anxiously waiting your return.

  • Heatherer

    Micha, thank you for writing so openly and beautifully. I’m sorry for your loss with this latest move. Your story is both familiar and opposite mine. I too was determined to be a missionary as I ended high school. I traveled to Ethiopia the summer after I finished high school and at the end committed to serving in full time ministry. Then off to college where I majored in anthropology and missions and developed a passion for ministry beyond just the spiritual. While there I also met a wonderful and godly man who I married – who was headed for graduate school in math. At first we figured he would get his masters and then it would be my turn to do something (more school or international ministry) and then he would finish his PhD. But how it has happened is that we have stayed in one place throughout that time because taking time off between the two doesn’t actually work. I felt stuck for several years and I was upset that God didn’t seem to care about putting the passions and talents he gave me to use. The first few years I was working in day care which seemed like nothing more than a way to pay the bills. I thought the transition from the masters to the PhD would give me an out, but the only school my husband got into was local. Stuck again. Slowly and begrudgingly I began to learn what contentment means. Ultimately God provided a job I can be passionate about though it is not ministry in the conventional sense. I would not have appreciated it if it was not for the desert following college. Now we have a house, a baby, a home church. And I am content in the place we are at. Also, that day care experience is coming in handy. I’m sorry if reading that part makes you sadder, which is not what I am trying to do in telling this. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m grateful for what God has done that was so counter to every intuition and desire. And I’m grateful for the reminder you have given me to be grateful for my anchored place but also that God may send boats by that I have to get on, whether I want to or not. I hope and pray that you and your family will be given a time of stability. Also, sorry for rambling so long – I have a (bad?) habit of letting blogs act as writing prompts.

  • Jon Wilcox

    Challenging stuff! It’s nice to know that God goes ahead of us. Mystery is a good thing, but it can be, oh, so hard sometimes. By the way, you’re going to be writing a book? With which publisher?

  • Kim N

    Micha, I just wanted to thank you for this post. You don’t know me, but your words have blessed me numerous times, none more than this latest entry. You and I Are at very different places in life, but I am in a time of transition too and your story of the river of God’s love has stuck with me since I first read it a couple of days ago. The youngest of my four children just graduated high school, and I am facing a new chapter in life – one without the structure and obligations that come with school aged children or the busyness of a full house. The Big Question is “What now?” I don’t know what is next, but thanks for the reminder to trust that God will move me along in His love. I pray that you’ll know His peace as He moves you along too.

  • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp

    Something caught in my throat as I read this.
    That night? That river?
    I know nights like that and His Spirit and wherever He sends you and whatever the cost and I have tears all brimming as I type this.
    You can write that book. Whatever He calls you to, He will complete that which He began.
    I will pray.
    More love than thin letters can hold, Micha….

  • Steve Hinderhofer

    Father, I pray in Jesus Name that you would impart your peace on Micha’s heart, as her words provide us peace as we enter own own rivers.

  • Victoria

    Thank you for your refreshing honesty in sharing your heart. Even though it can be terrifying to let go of the edge and allow God to take us out into His river for our lives, there is tremendous freedom and grace and joy in the middle of God’s current. You’re right, there is a personal cost that others will never know the depths of, but as I’m sure you’ve found, there is also overwhelming peace. Bless you.

  • Debbie

    I’m so sorry to hear you are moving. I only recently discovered your blog (love it!) and as a fellow Austinite, I sort of assumed/hoped we would meet some day (the Austin Christian community and writer’s community are pretty small). I’ll will pray for your move, for all the the details, for your book, but mostly for you to stay in the river. Always.

  • http://realconversationsbetweenfriends.blogspot.com/ Ann

    Was just thinking of you and prayed. Hope you are well.

  • Lyndsey

    Best one in awhile. Keep on keeping on, Anne Lamott.

  • Anna Quinn

    Oh, blessings, Micha! What a big mission field He is sending you to! One where you can’t afford to park much less pay for preschool. We lived there when my third child was born and loved every minute but didn’t see how we could afford to stay. God didn’t open those doors for us. I’ll pray that since He has opened them for you He will also find you the school and the housing and the babysitters ($20/hr/2 kids!). The City does need you and Him. You’ve lived there, so you know that. Blessings on your journey!

  • http://www.franticbelieving.wordpress.com Jordan

    Thank you, thank you for these words. You have no idea how God used them to connect with and quiet my heart like only He can. Thank you. And I’m praying.

  • http://www.get-vitalized.com Marsha Brown

    Micha, What a dear and beautiful spirit you have been given. You have tasted of the love of God and have allowed your heart to stay in that River. Thank you for staying tender-hearted and sharing that heart with a broken world. You are NEVER alone, you never lose those you leave behind, because they have become a part of you and you have become a part of them and their hope for a better future; your heart is always growing in it’s capacity to love, imitating the embrace of God and his own desire to take us all under his wings. May God continue to richly bless you in sharing that love, which is the true gospel.

  • http://theartofpursuit.blogspot.com Lisa

    Wow! Thank you for this post. I’m new to your blog…and this one encouraged me more than you’ll know. Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone in the journey, and God knows I have felt that. So to hear your story of the Lord’s calling that seems so hard at times – but then somehow always ends up more wonderful than we could imagine was a breath of fresh air. So thanks for writing.

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  • http://www.moderndaydonnareed.com steph {confessions of a stay-at-home mom}

    Thinking of you Micha. And I believe, truly believe, you are faithful and brave. <3

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