faith Relationships

Hazarding Branson

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The author and all around great guy, Ed Cyzewski, has published with his co-author a new book called Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.

Can we get a WOOT WOOT for Ed and Derek. *WOOT WOOT*

Ed’s publication celebration includes asking his friends and colleagues to share our stories of living out faith, no matter the cost. If you’ve got a story to share, please do, on your blog, in the comments, or here. Make sure to link up with Ed; he wants to hear your own narrative.

Mine. Mine does not take me to third world countries or into the poverty stricken wiles of American cities. My hazardous story took me Highway 65, the main drag of Heartlandia, better known as Branson, Missouri.

In 1993, I graduated from college with the vaguest sketch of a plan. My plan, to join a college ministry organization in the Pennsylvania area, didn’t exactly pan out for me. I was scrambling to find something to do for a year while this cute boy I was dating finished school. He told me about a year long discipleship program in Branson. In no time flat, I refused. Who goes to Branson except for washed-up, old-time country singers?

I didn’t want to go. Mostly because the cute boy would not be there. How would I survive without him? For a whole year? In a place I had never been?

But I went. I packed my blue Subaru with my tattered Bible, a bunch of cassette tapes (yes, okay, so it was a while ago) my coffee pot and a massive load of fear.

For a girl who had never been father west than eastern Kentucky, Branson was a like landing on Mars and discovering alien life was much weirder than we could ever have imagined. Everyone else in the group came from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. There was this whole midwestern, football/sorority language thing going on that made little sense to me. They knew this area as many of them had been campers and counselors at a nearby camp, which had another lexicon I did know or care to understand.

You know, we mock what we don’t understand. And oh, how I mocked. These people with their Dr. Pepper and their ya’lls were not going to get me to join the dark side. I refused their happy clappy style of worship. I thought I had made a huge mistake.

I was in a totally new place, surrounded by nothing at all familiar. I alternated hiding my fear behind veils of tears for about a month. For a time, I challenged God: why did you bring me here?

He answered that question.

He told me that I relied on my academic knowledge of Scripture and weilded it with arrogance rather than grace.

He told me I relied on my relationship with the very cute boy, unwilling to stand on my own two feet in my faith.

He told me that while I preferred the crisp northeastern fall, and the surging three rivers of the Ohio Valley, home could be anywhere.

He told me that adding to my collection of lifelong friends was worth the risk of the scary unknown. (I realize this might not sound scary, but it sure was to me. There is something so finite and L O N G about a year committment.)

He taught me to handle conflict about turning off my reading light at night so my roommate could sleep. Seriously, you have no idea how many one-on-ones we had about this.

He taught me that people love to hear their voices and to see my eyes when I’m listening to them, showing them they have all of me.

He taught me that my three best friends, from Missouri, Texas and North Carolina were just as scared and wild and awkwardly walking their own faith stories as me.

I didn’t know it then, at the end of that year, I would be engaged to marry that boy. I often think that my traveling what felt like light years away from him was the best thing for our relationship and our eventual marriage.

God taught me to turn to him in loneliness, not anyone or anything else. He showed me that a strong women knew how to handle her business, but that asking for help was okay, too.

I didn’t risk my life. I wasn’t called into the wilds of the jungle. I went to Missouri for a year, alone, to learn how to be a disciple. It scared me. It pushed me and challenged me and not a week passed where tears were not part of my regular diet.

My perspectives on God, others and myself were radically altered. Because I lived in a cabin secured to a mountain in Branson.

16 Comment

  1. Missouri sounds plenty intimidating to this east coast kid! Ha!

    What a great story of learning to depend on God when surrounded by the unfamiliar. I can’t think of many of us who would take such a leap into an unknown situation, especially at that stage in life when emotions run high in relationships and friendships are a lifeline in the midst of major life transitions. Thanks so much for sharing it Jen! Don’t forget to link up to the synchroblog page! I want others to read it.

      1. Sorry about the commenting difficulty! Silly blog. That was a hard time in my life but God used it to really stretch me. I could create a few more posts off of all the reasons it was best I ended up staying in my hometown. Talk about a Big Picture view!

  2. Great story, Branson can be intimidating. But I am legally obligated to say there is more than country music there now since we had a play there last year and again this year based on our movie, “A Christmas Snow” 😉 Thanks for sharing your story, you got me thinking about what mine might be.

    1. Joe, I’d love it if you wrote your story and linked up with Ed, and I know he’d love it, too.

      As far as Branson goes, well done, sir. It’s been a LONG time since I was there. Back then, it was country and old dudes. And a major culture clash!

      1. I’ll start working on my story, glad to have found out about Ed, this is why I like twitter.

        Oh and it’s still country and old dudes, but they’ve added some more fun stuff for families too. My kids liked it.

  3. I was just hanging out on Ed’s page, looking through all the Hazardous stories, and realised I hadn’t read yours. I’m mega late to the party, I know – but I loved this! (I woudl totally freak to be in a cabin on a mountain in Branson…)
    I love how discipleship can come in the long-term, non-dramatic ways.
    And the challenge of turning to God in loneliness is one I still struggle with.

    1. Yeah, Branson was a tough one. And a good one. Aren’t all the good lessons dipped in a little bit of toughness? Thanks for visiting, Tanya.

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