Laser-focused

Last week, our family of five plus one stopped everything to go see The Drop Box.

Our oldest¬†was still incredibly welted, red and itchy from his allergy testing. (Who knew he was soooooo allergic to dust mites! He scored a whopping 19 where the doc said a general allergic reaction would be around .5. Poor guy.) We bought popcorn for dinner (fun parents that we are ūüėČ ) and settled into our seats. I told my husband¬†I‚Äôd have to eat it quickly, because it‚Äôd feel almost sacrilegious to chomp away during this kind of documentary.

The theater was sold out, so I’m glad we got there early.

For us, even though the movie takes place in South Korea, we were instantly transported back to all of the countries we’ve served. It’s the same, heartbreaking story over and over. The despair. Helplessness. Voicelessness. But…like with the ministries we served, Pastor Lee and his wife are not without hope.

Photo credit: David Kim

No matter the circumstance, every story has the same beginning…pain. However, what I love most about this ministry is that the moment a baby is received from the drop box, Pastor Lee immediately, I mean immediately, holds the baby tight and prays for him or her. I believe that this is the plot twist that changes the child’s story.

Plot twists don’t stop with prayer. They come in the form of medical help, counseling, food, water, clothing, shelter, an education, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to laugh with, and sometimes simply knowing someone in this world cares about them gives hope for another day.

As a woman, wife and mother, I have a strong sense to nurture. This is true for most women. We want to make things better. We will do it at cost to ourselves and not even think twice. However, this leads to physical, mental, spiritual and emotional fatigue if not kept in check.

Pastor Lee understands this about himself as well.

Leaving the theater, I felt both glorious in that this beautiful baby drop box ministry is happening in our world even at this second, and I felt heavy-burdened for the babies in the world who don’t have this option. My heart exploded with feeling overwhelmed at the millions and millions of children who cry themselves to sleep every night for as many reasons as their are children.

My heart wanted to burst as the nurturer in me raised up in the name of helping.

This week, our high school girls devotion group met like we do every week to study God’s Word. The topic in our continuing journey to discover what being a woman of noble character (Proverbs 31) looks like was staying focused.

Shiphrah and Puah were the women we studied. They were brave midwives who, as part of an underground network of Hebrew midwives, defied Pharoah’s edict to kill all Hebrew baby boys at birth. We talked about their tenacity to follow God even it meant risk to their own safety.

They feared God more than man. They obeyed God more than they obeyed man.

These midwives had a laser-focused calling.

I’m jealous.

Most days I feel like I’m on a small raft in the middle of a huge ocean of need and opportunity. Waves of emotion and passion to nurture in Jesus’ name toss my raft around like a rag doll. I feel like there is no wheel or sails to steer this one soul in a laser-focused direction.

Pastor Lee and his wife have their laser-focused calling. We can name many who do.

But, I am reminded that there is a place for everyone in ministry ‚Äď even if the place‚Äôs destination continues to change.

It’s my most humble honor to serve on mission. Our family is a motley crew who has no idea what tomorrow looks like. We are broken people called to go to the broken.

Years ago, I sat in a sea of preschool moms listening to a testimony from the director of our preschool. She was in the middle of battling cancer. She specifically said, ‚ÄúSome may wonder why I am testifying to God‚Äôs goodness now. It seems appropriate to wait until I am past the cancer to give a praise report. But I am telling you now, in the middle of cancer, that God is good. Cancer doesn‚Äôt change that.‚ÄĚ

Her words burrowed deep into my soul and I carry them with me daily.

God is good and He is enough.

Shiphrah and Puah knew it. Pastor Lee and his wife know it. Each of us who call Jesus our Savior know it. And knowing this truth is one way God qualifies the called.

It’s why the broken can go to the broken.

We don’t have to have a perfect life to reach others. We simply point them to the One who is perfect.

I often think about the prisoners we will meet. I wonder about who they are, but I don’t care an iota about what they’ve done. Who am I to pick up a stone and hurl it at them? I’ve got a rock garden with my name on it that reads guilty as charged.

But, I also know who sets the prisoner free. And as one who has been set free, even in the middle of brokenness, there is a testimony to share ‚Äď God is good and Jesus¬†is enough.

So whatever venue that looks like (though I’m quite certain it won’t be midwifery) we will continue to go where He leads, schlepping our broken, beautiful mess with us.

I’m learning that it’s Christ’s message that is laser-focused regardless of how, when, where, or to whom He calls us to share it.

 

2014 answered a lifelong question

*** This post may require a pot of coffee. ūüôā For those who make it all the way to the end, I hope it is a blessing. Happy New Year, Kristi ***

I told my friend the other day that I am¬†itching to close 2014. I have a trigger finger on the calendar to turn the page to January 2015. I’m not one to want to hurry life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Typically I’m faulted with trying to squeeze too much out of a day.

This year, however, has taught me some lessons that have tested the core of my faith. It’s also revealed surprises that no one could have ever expected.

It’s known that we grow through conflict. In that spirit, here are ways in which¬†I was given the opportunity to grow and have a lifelong question answered…Does God give us more than we can handle?

* 2014 began and ended in a medical facility.

This past January, I laid on a table, fully alert and awake while 27 incisions were made from my hip to my ankle to remove varicose veins. This was after previous vein clamping in both legs, which¬†failed in one leg. Even with the best specialty doctor in the city performing the procedure, it was the most bar-barrack, brutal thing I’ve ever experienced. Thinking about it makes me cringe a year¬†later. I will spare the details, but suffice it to say I went into a bit of shock during it. Afterwards, I even told the nurse the wrong city I was born in, and knew I was wrong, but couldn’t remember the right answer.

In my life, I’ve had all four wisdom teeth pulled (including four dry sockets as a result) fully awake and alert with nothing more than Novocain and headphones to drown out the drill. I’ve been through three long labors, the longest being 56 hours – 28 of them with contractions five minutes apart and 28 of them with contractions two minutes apart. My tonsils were removed when my firstborn was just eight weeks old and I was still postpartum. I’ve been rushed into surgery for an emergency appendectomy. I’ve been in two car accidents that totaled my cars: one head-on in which my car flew 20 feet in the air, and one t-boned on the driver’s side. I’ve felt the punch of the air bag as well as the crack of my head slamming into the window. I’ve had food poisoning so horrifically that it required a colonoscopy. I slipped off of a playground merry-go-round in motion and my leg got caught underneath and it drug me around until both the tibia and fibula bones¬†snapped¬†in my leg. I can’t count the sprains and twists in my ankles (I was quite the tomboy). I’ve had five surgeries in the past six years which has left over 38 scars on my body. The 39th being a squamous cancer dug out of me two months ago.

I know something about pain. I know physical trauma. And I can tell you this particular procedure was nothing like anything I just mentioned. The procedure itself is worth the results, but not being able to utilize a tranquilizer of any kind was a war that raged against the core of my sanity. And, this happened just two months after major abdominal surgery.

What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?

* Move past that brutal winter and spring bloomed.

I was taking my dog for a walk on a sleepy Monday morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Suddenly,¬†my ear picked up on something that set off an internal alarm. I¬†didn’t know what it was, but something¬†definitely wasn’t¬†right. I¬†stopped and listened. What were just people sounds (which I thought were either kids playing or workmen) turned into screams for help.

The next thing I know, I was rounding the corner of a neighbor’s home (whom I didn’t know) only to find the woman rushing toward me with her arm extended out toward me. She pleaded in a deep voice with desperation I have never heard, “Help me!

She was missing three fingers.

I didn’t know how it happened, but she needed immediate help. I have never been trained for emergency response (except infant CPR when I was pregnant) and my knee-jerk reaction was to call 911. It was just her and me. She was in shock. I was in shock. It was horrible. She couldn’t give me her name or age and I didn’t even know her street number. I needed help in a major way.

She told me that the lawnmower had cut them off. I’ve never, and never want to again, see anything like what I saw. Ever.

I looked up and saw an SUV driving towards us on our sleepy street. I literally jumped in front of it (what was I thinking!) and slammed my hands on the window. I demanded (in as pleasant of a tone¬†as possible) for the man¬†to stop. He stared at me wild-eyed as I told him the situation. He pulled over, thank you God. I was still on the phone with 911 as instructed. Shortly after, the woman’s boyfriend drove up. So here these two men, the woman and by now another neighbor were looking for her fingers in the yard, the gutter, in the mower, while I obeyed the 911 operator’s instructions to stay in the street to help flag down the EMS vehicles which were en route. I was still trying to get her name and age.

In the minutes before anyone else was on the scene, the weight and brevity of responsibility for this neighbor who couldn’t help herself, collapsed¬†heavily on my shoulders. I knew what could happen if she didn’t receive the medical care she needed. I knew time was not on her side. I’ve never been in that position before.

Our family has endured¬†multiple medical crises: a Home Depot incident that put my three year-old in an ambulance with stitches deep in his forehead; our oldest son was impaled by a broken hurdle on the track at school leaving a 1×1″ right angle scar on his chin; again our oldest suffered a severe concussion while playing soccer in Kenya when on mission for which he is still being treated almost four years later; a light saber snafu between brothers knocked out our youngest’s front teeth requiring emergency orthodontics; a playground accident at school in which our youngest got clothes-lined by a thick metal bar square in the head. I could go on with sports injuries, home accidents – we basically have every medical apparatus available to the general public including surgical boots, slings, braces, every size of crutches, etc. I can’t even make this stuff up.

However, I had never been in such a moment where I was alone to deal with it. Like standing in the eye of a hurricane, I could see the urgency and seriousness of the moment swirling around me, yet inside I was calm and stayed focused on the task of getting her the help she needed – all with my dog’s leash tangled around my legs.

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After the ambulance arrived, I asked the EMS worker if there was anything more I could do to help. Thinking I was just a curious onlooker, he encouraged me to move along. Next thing I know I am walking once again on our quiet street, as if nothing ever happened. I didn’t know what to think and questioned if the whole thing even happened. I turned around and gazed at the ambulance and knew indeed it was real.

Nightmares plagued me for days. Shock numbed my waking hours. An inner tremor reverberated through my body every moment making it difficult to even hold a pen. But, I knew the thing I needed to do most was to walk by her home again. I needed to do it to get past it. So I leashed up my dog and off we went. As I approached her home I began to shake uncontrollably. But I kept walking. The minute my feet passed by her driveway I turned and stared at the place where it all started. My mind’s eye saw her running toward me all over again and I began to cry. Tears streamed down my face and I wanted to turn around. I passed by the place where the lawnmower sat and people searched. I breathed deeply and kept walking. Finally, I had passed her home that had yellow ribbons tied around her trees out of love and care for her.

What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?

* Summer came and our family embarked on a mission trip to Ecuador.

A beautiful country with even more beautiful people. We’d been going on mission for three years prior, but this time was different. The other times we went with our church. I felt safe and sound, snug in the middle of a circle of capable, loving people who were veterans on mission. I was comfortable. Very comfortable even in uncomfortable, and at times dangerous, situations.

This time, however, God led us to serve with an organization we didn’t know, with people we didn’t know. It’s one thing to go myself, but it’s another thing to take our children, even if they are teenagers. The week before we left I came down with a horrible upper respiratory infection. The team leader called us from out-of-state to check in and I could hear the surprise in her voice when she heard my lack of voice. I was so so sick. As I laid in bed I stared at the ceiling asking God why. I needed to get on a plane in a matter of days and have flown with a sinus infection before – no fun. I didn’t want to get my team or those we’d be serving sick.

I crawled to the doctor for any help she could give and she prescribed for me an inhaler. I’d never used one and was wary of its side effects as other family members use them so I am familiar with them. She promised me it would be okay. In the meantime, my primary doctor was trying to figure what was wrong with me because for months I couldn’t stay awake and was known to take 4 hour naps during the day. Add that to a list of symptoms and he suggested sleep apnea. No, not me. That’s what other people have. The sleep doctor tested me and sure enough!

A week before leaving for Ecuador, still sick, I received my c-pap machine.

Touching down in Quito, the minute I stepped off the plane it hit me. Ten thousand¬†feet of altitude slapped me right in the lungs. I’ve never been at that altitude, but thankfully had researched altitude sickness before we left.

As quick as I could, I whipped out my new inhaler and puffed away. The c-pap machine was my lifeline during this mission. Without these two things I would not have been able to stay. By the time we left Quito at the end of the mission, I felt like I was having a heart attack. The headache, tightness of chest, brain fog Рit felt like a giant was slowly squeezing the life out of me in his merciless hand. It was claustrophobic to mind and body. As our driver passed by several urgent cares and a hospital, I nearly asked him to stop at one.

Instead, I sat back, closed my eyes and breathed long, slow breaths. Even though the mission was over, we weren’t headed to the airport. Our family was headed to the rain forest.

What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?

* The end of summer drew near, and on a hot, typical day our day turned out to be anything but typical.

As Providence would have it, our family was involved in a tragedy no one saw coming. Someone we know committed suicide, and our family happened to be first on the scene to comfort the man’s daughter who had literally just found him. It was surreal. Bound to an obligation I had, I sent my kids to comfort her, not knowing this was the case. I thought it was a heart attack or stroke. I was in a situation that could not pull me away, so as a juggled this situation and my kids going to the need, my heart split in two. Watching my daughter literally hold up his daughter in grief while they pulled his body from the car physically made my heart hurt. Watching a slew of EMS vehicles come and go for hours sent me¬†into a tailspin. Watching from afar my kids be so closely involved¬†left me numb and nauseous.

However, at one point (still tied to my obligation) I asked our youngest to get our other two. They had seen enough after an hour of trying to help. He replied, “I can’t interrupt when they’re praying.” “How do you know they are praying?” I asked as I turned around. My eyes beheld one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Our two teens were sitting on the ground in a circle with the wife and daughter, arms locked shoulder to shoulder, praying. Later, our daughter told me it was our son’s idea to pray.

I had nightmares for weeks. Gasping for air in the middle of the night, I woke¬†up crying in a cold sweat. What we saw. What we knew. The pain of that day is inexpressible. I am without words. It rocked my faith to the core. I’ve lived my entire life based on hope that is rooted in faith. It’s how I’ve survived my own personal tragedies.

On this day, hope lost. Like watching the hero die in a movie, I kept waiting for this person we know¬†to get up. To be okay. He didn’t. He wasn’t going to be okay. Hope lost. I couldn’t wrap my head around it for months. I cried through every worship song at church and my prayers were short one-way chats with God at best.

It would have been so much easier to turn a blind eye that day, or close our eyes in fear and ignore what was literally in front of us. I wrestled the mama bear inside me who wanted to protect and shield my kids from the harsh realities of the world.

What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?

* Fall came, and it brought a personal heartache like none I have ever experienced.

It is so deep. So raw. Bleeding. I was neither prepared for this then nor now. It put me in a position I never imagined. To make decisions I never thought I’d have to make. I was forced to live a reality that I wanted to run from and hide. It was a sadness and loss like I’ve never experienced. Anger and depression warred in my soul. I became non-functioning. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or perform any daily tasks required of me. I lost purpose for my life. I felt completely untethered to this world. Like being caught in the movie Inception, but without a toggle, I couldn’t tell what was real anymore because everything I knew to be so with this part of my life revealed an opposite truth – and I couldn’t process it.

Instead of being calm in the eye of the hurricane like before, this time I was swept away with the wind and rain and lightening and thunder as it threw my heart around and around and around in its bands. I’ve never been so emotionally bruised and wounded.

I wish I could¬†say the storm has passed, but it hasn’t. It has changed, but it’s hasn’t passed. The bands of the hurricane spit me out, and now I sit in the pouring rain among the rubble of what I thought I once knew as normal life. The rain pounds, the wind whips. I sit with my head between my knees and wait for it to pass.

Tempted to once again ignore the situation and conjure up a false reality through vices which lead to dead ends, I stay in the storm.

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What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?

* Recently, our teens’ high school received multiple death threats.

It was all the talk to see who would still attend school on the day targeted by the perpetrator. The general consensus among parents at large was to keep their kids home. Social media comments I read gave the attitude of, “Good parents keep their kids home.” But, our family didn’t see it that way. First of all, we left it up to our 18 year-old¬†to attend or not, after all, he’s a legal adult. Second, we spent hours discussing the issue. I firmly believe Psalm 139 which tells us that every one of our days were written in God’s book before any of them ever happen. If it’s not our son’s time to go, then nothing and no one in all of the world can change that. If it is his last day, nothing can prevent that either unless God changes the plan.

Here’s an even more shocking statement – I believe it was an important day for Christians to be at school, so those who don’t have a hope and salvation in Christ can talk to someone who does. They also need to be front line to be hands and feet of Jesus. Does that mean we shove our kids into harm’s way? Not at all. The FBI, local police and school system were all over this thing. ¬†The day before K-9 units and bomb squads scoured the property. Officers were stationed on sight throughout the night. There were 20 officers posted on campus during the school¬†day. Doors were guarded. Halls were monitored. This school was probably safer than any in the county because everyone was on high alert includes teachers and students.

Our son was adamant about going. He wanted to defend his freedom and not let anyone else dictate his life through fear and intimidation, not for one day. That morning, I prayed over him and anointed his head with oil. We read Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 en route to school. We chatted about light stuff. As I dropped him off, it was obvious he was one of a few there. In fact, the school had a 13% attendance that day. As I drove away, I once again gave my son to our Lord as a tear trickled down my cheek.

* This week, while waiting on my husband’s shoulder surgery to wrap up as I sat in the waiting room, I thought about this year.

I am desperate to turn the calendar and close 2014 forever. I prayed that God would make sense of it all, because heaven forbid these situations that confronted me this year would be for nothing except to grate on my last nerve and send me to the end of my sanity.

Here’s the question I’ve always wrestled with: Does God give us more than we can handle?

Looking back at any of these 2014 situations, I get tangled up with the notion that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. Read Elijah’s words in 1 Kings 19:3-5,

Elijah was afraid¬†and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,¬†while he himself went¬†a day‚Äôs journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. ‚ÄúTake my life; I am no better than my ancestors.‚Ä̬†Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep…

Or Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:8,

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.

David spoke often in Psalm about suffering. Psalm 88:2-4,

May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.

Job also had a voice in handling the hard stuff. Job 30:15-17,

Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud. And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.

And Job 6:8-16,

‚ÄúOh, that I might have my request,¬†that God would grant what I hope for,¬†that God would be willing to crush me,¬†to let loose his hand and cut off my life!¬†Then I would still have this consolation‚ÄĒmy joy in unrelenting pain‚ÄĒthat I had not denied the words of the Holy One.¬†‚ÄúWhat strength do I have, that I should still hope?¬†What prospects, that I should be patient?¬†Do I have the strength of stone?¬†Is my flesh bronze?¬†Do I have any power to help myself,¬†now that success has been driven from me?

But what about Isaiah 42:3,

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

Or 2 Corinthians 4:7-9,

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.

Then there is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which is OFTEN taken out of context (ug!). Can we agree to remove this Scripture from this discussion? It’s not applicable no matter how many times it’s misunderstood.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

So which is it? Does God give us beyond what we can bear or not?

The answer came slowly this year, experience by experience. I have always believed He does so that we only boast in his strength. Others believe He won’t. The experiences I’ve had in 2014 pushed me beyond my limit, beyond what I could bear, so far as I knew.

That’s the key.¬†Bob Marley’s quote, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice” is true, to a point. So is my belief that it is God’s strength in us that gets us through the tough stuff as in Philippians 4:13,

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (KJV)

In a believer’s life, these two work in tandem. It is Christ’s strength in us, and that strength is there because of a relationship with the One who gives it. There were¬†times this year when I was pushed beyond my limit. I came to the end of myself. But, God’s strength was there. It’s not like His strength was some turbo boost that kicked in when I needed it. It was there all along.

How? Because the deeper I relation with Him, the more He becomes in me and the less I am. So in fact it is His strength in me that is working, though it is working through my words and actions.

Like a glass filled with water (me), oil (God) slowly poured in it eventually fills the cup. The water spills out. It’s not that we lose who we are and were created to be. We don’t lose our uniqueness, gifts, strengths and weaknesses, it is that God is glorified in them and through them.

Uniqueness: Psalm 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

 And 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18, 27,

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by¬†one Spirit so as to form one body‚ÄĒwhether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free‚ÄĒand we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.¬†But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.¬†Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Gifts & Strengths: Romans 12:6-8,

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Weaknesses: 2 Corinthians 12:8-10,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (the thorn) away from me. But he said to me, ‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚTherefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‚Äôs power may rest on me.¬†That is why, for Christ‚Äôs sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I am able to see His strength working in each of the scenarios from 2014:

* With the varicose vein procedure –

Romans 12:2,¬†Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God‚Äôs will is‚ÄĒhis good, pleasing and perfect will.

His strength produced a new mental stamina and perseverance in me that wasn’t there before. Wanting to jump off of the table and run, I remained still and let the procedure happen. God’s¬†logic and common sense about what is best in the long run for the health of my legs, thus how much I can do with them for the rest of my life, overcame my irrational mindset.

* In the experience with my neighbor and her lawnmower tragedy –

Hebrews 13:20-21, Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

His calm made me calm. No matter how badly I wanted to run away from the situation, His love for a woman I didn’t know overpowered my selfishness that wanted to run. God¬†equipped me for helping with this gruesome task in ways only He¬†could have done with a love that overflowed¬†from His heart into mine.

Driving by her home a couple of weeks ago, I saw her hanging evergreen wreaths on her windows for Christmas. It was beautiful and healing to watch her life move past the incident and see her accept change and a new normal. Having learned more about how God has worked in her life since then (even weaving this tragedy into something beautiful in her life), I can appreciate her willingness to accept change in on a much deeper level. She has been an encouragement to me to accept change in my life. ¬†God’s hand was on her hand that day and in His own incredible way He healed us both.

* In Ecuador –

Deuteronomy 1:29-31,¬†Then I said to you, ‚ÄúDo not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord¬†your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes,¬†and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord¬†your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.‚ÄĚ

As I laid in bed sick as a dog before we left, I felt like God had forgotten about me. Why in the world would He let me get sick a week before a mission trip we had planned for 6 months? I was angry. Looking back on it, if I had not gotten sick, I never would have been given an inhaler, which was vital to combating altitude sickness. I believe He also allowed my sleep apnea symptoms to get so severe I was forced to go to the doctor (something I had procrastinated about for months) so I would have the c-pap machine in time to travel.

There is no possible way I could have stayed on mission without these tools. The altitude crippled me – who knew?

So what I saw as two major inconveniences in my life at the time, the illness and sleep apnea diagnosis, were actually blessings in disguise. God was paving the path for me to get to Ecuador – and stay there. When we’re in the middle of a trial, it’s almost impossible for us to see any good that can come of it. We can’t, because we can’t see the future. But God, who invented time and is already in the future as much as He is in the present, sees the whole, big picture.

I learned through this to not spend my strength¬†cursing the trial, but praising the One who I trust to bring me through it (one way or another) and can even use it for my good. How’s that for God’s crazy economy?

Second, He strengthened me for the task of serving others in my weakness so, like Paul, I can tell others who gets the glory – and it’s not me.

In addition to being able to accomplish the mission’s goals, when we drove past all of the medical help and deep toward the rain forest, God had awesome surprises in store for us. He showed off His majesty in plants prehistorically large and jaw-droppingly beautiful. He showed off His creativity in creatures we’ve never seen. The day we hiked on our own in the rain forest was liberating like no other experience I’ve had. It was mesmerizing. Peaceful. And we felt a little closer to heaven.

Serving with an unknown team, in an unknown land, and venturing into unknown territory cut the apron strings of fear that had me seeing the future with tunnel vision. Now I can look at the big wide world, and all of its possibilities, and give God open hands, willing feet and a heart ready to do whatever He asks.

* Regarding the suicide –

Isaiah 40:28-31, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I watched our son dash away from me¬†barefoot as he ran to help them that day. The same bare feet that used to run¬†into the backyard to play. The same bare feet that curled up on the couch to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The same bare feet I used to wash in the sink and cuddle up into a towel. This also goes for our daughter. All the hugs we’ve given her over the years. The hugs she’s received from teachers, friends and family, she was extending to someone who needed to be held.

Our son left a child and came back a man. I saw that he was able to minister to others in their time of need. What he has learned his entire life was put into action that day. Our daughter¬†did the very thing we’ve reared her to do – love others. For me as a mom, it wasn’t a moment of pride. It was a moment of great humility that God would allow me to see two childhoods come to fruition into two young adults who know how to, and are not afraid to, literally run to the need. I count myself immeasurably blessed to have been able to witness it.

However, I couldn’t reconcile hope losing. I understand hope loses every day in many ways. Marriages divorce. Diagnoses stamp death sentences. Job prospects fall¬†through. Our best still isn’t good enough and we watch dreams fade into unrealized memories. This experience was a raw, unfiltered, tangible expression of hope losing. Permanent. Unchanging. Irreversible. It sucker-punched me.

I thought about my last brief chat with this man and wondered if there was anything different I could have said or done. But, without any warning signs visible, how would we know? Oh the guilt.

Trying to work through this was kryptonite to my soul until God scooped my heart up off the floor and held it in His hands. He let me grieve. He gave me time to heal. In doing so, He strengthened me from the inside out.

That strength turned into a fiery passion to helps others. To be more aware of people in my life whether family and friends or those standing in front of my in the grocery store. He strengthened me with an urgency to help in ways that show His love to a broken world. He brushed me off, tied my running shoes and said, “Run. Run to the need.” Just like my children did, without hesitation.

* Trusting God in perilous times –

Isaiah 41:10, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

It was a normal Saturday when social media lit up like the 4th of July. The threats made against the school were flying all over the place. How does a mother allow her teenager to go to school under such conditions? Again, knowing the authorities had all hands on deck, my mind drifted to other parts of the world in those hours leading up to school.

Thoughts of Christians in northern Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, and places that don’t make the nightly news. I’ve read so many stories of Christians living 24/7 under imminent threat. Their danger is at their doorstep, yet they are not swayed.

We were faced with a possible threat. The major players were “what if” scenarios that ran through our minds like a movie in fast-forward. Taking a step back, the fact is there is more of a chance of something happening to my children on the way to and from school every single day than this far out¬†possibility.

Our pastor (now retired) once told me a profound truth about living in this kind of fear. He said, “People will always give up freedom for safety.” That thought terrifies me because it is a vicious circle that spirals down toward total loss of freedom in the end.

This situation our family was faced with made us confront our fears of pain and suffering, loss and trauma. But in reality, every day is a risk. It’s quite amazing we all make it to midnight, frankly.

This situation made us face our own mortality and what price we are willing to pay for our Lord. It was a heavy weekend.

My strength came from Ephesians 6:12 because these threats were pure evil –

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We used wisdom, logic, common sense and mostly¬†prayer to come to a conclusion about our son going to school that day. Doing so, we could wholeheartedly support his decision knowing he had sought God’s will and wisdom.

This, coming from an overprotective mother who would do anything for her children, was surely walking in God’s strength, not my own. My human nature wanted to lock him in his bedroom, far away from any danger.

But, can we do that? Can we prevent all danger at all times from reaching our children? No. There is trust in the One who made them and has plans for them (Jeremiah 29:11).  Letting go is the hardest thing a mother can do. It goes against everything in us no matter what we are releasing them to. At some point, parents must relinquish control and let the One who made them, lead them.

* Fall’s avalanche –

Psalm 34;18, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I could ask never-ending “why’s” about this. Everything in 2014 combined leading up to this didn’t compare to this. A landslide of the heart. A sinkhole of spirit. An avalanche of the mind. An abyss of the future.

Still, God keeps telling me, “Do it anyway. You aren’t allowed to give up. It’s bigger than you, but it doesn’t have to be stronger than you.” What does that look like in reality? How does one live every day like this? From where does one draw strength to walk this journey?

Indeed, it is this experience that has taught me the most about God giving us what we can or can’t handle. It feels like everything else were precursors preparing me for this.

And that’s the point. One experience in life leads us to the next. We will grow stronger or weaker through them, depending on whose strength we rely on. God gives us things in life that do seem too much to handle from our perspective. But to He who created us, doesn’t He know us better than ourselves? Can we trust Him to know how much we can take?

And can’t the amount of our strength change? Like in exercising when muscles get stronger and bigger, so life’s circumstances are opportunities to grow strength in us via faith in Christ who carried the weight of the world on His shoulders by way of the cross.

The tricky part is realizing whose strength it is in the moment. We are finite and so is our strength. I’ve often read Habakkuk 1:11, Then they sweep past like the wind and go on‚ÄĒguilty people, whose own strength is their god.¬†It haunts me because I am often guilty of this, finding strength in my strength.

In John’s¬†words in John 3:30,¬†He must increase, but I must decrease.

As I decrease and God increases in my life, it is His strength which infuses and vitalizes me. When we feel handling life’s hardest trials are¬†impossible, we are reminded they are¬†not:

Matthew 19:26¬†Jesus looked at them and said, ‚ÄúWith man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.‚ÄĚ

Mark 10:27,¬†Jesus looked at them and said, ‚ÄúWith man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.‚ÄĚ

Luke 18:27,¬†Jesus replied, ‚ÄúWhat is impossible with man is possible with God.‚Ä̬†

So on our own, no, we can’t bear all things. But with God, there is nothing we can’t endure. Our history with Him are stepping stones on our faith journey, and as we look back and see He was faithful, we can look forward and know He will be faithful.

Isaiah 40:29, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

And in His power, can’t God even turn our weaknesses around and make them strengths?

Hebrews 11:32-34, And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames,and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (emphasis mine)

At the end of a tumultuous year, I answer the question with a question – Does God give us more than we can handle? How do we really know how much we can handle?

It is He who knows us best. It is He who knows the why’s behind the doubts and is the strength that overpowers our fears. He gives us His strength in infinite ways – wisdom, courage, love, compassion, mercy, tenacity, endurance, perseverance, hope, joy, peace, readiness, self-control, determination, gentleness, humor, and even physical strength to face today.

When we lose ourselves in His goodness and faithfulness, forfeiting our own selfishness and self-righteousness, we find the fabric of our strength in He who knitted¬†us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We are one. Inseparable. Forever intertwined together in a dance that lessens me and increases Him until I am transparent for His glory.

What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back?

1 John 4:9-10, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It’s not about who I am or what I’ve done. It’s about who Christ is and what He did for me – and you. God is love, and this love is irresistible. It makes the journey worth it. Moreover, He is the reason for the journey. He is the journey.

From the first time He said, “Follow Me,” I did so as a baby crawls on the floor with no understanding of what I was really doing or where I was going or why. Now, three decades later of following Him, I understand a little more each day what that means. Requires. Costs.¬†But, the journey we are on together is one I wouldn’t miss for all the world.

God may test my strength, faith and endurance, but He’s also there every moment to infuse me with more of Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may face trials, hardships and temptations from the enemy, and the sheer brokenness of this world, but we are never alone on the path¬†when walking with the Lord.

One unexpected place He led me to this summer was a childhood dream of visiting the Grand Canyon. This summer, nine family members embarked on a whirlwind trip to visit American landmarks. The Grand Canyon was at the top of the list.

Our family was in the middle of a mule ride on the rim of the Canyon when I looked up and saw the most amazing sight. What do you see in this photograph I took?

DSC_0111

I see a heart shaped by clouds and clay. Right there, on the back of a mule in the middle of nowhere, God overwhelmed with His words in Psalm 139:7-8,

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

And Romans 8:38-39,  

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 23:6 assures us,

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

What makes feet walk straight to the eye of the storm and not turn back? Following the Savior described in Philippians 2:6-11, 

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature¬†of a servant, being made in human likeness.¬†And being found in appearance as a man,¬†he humbled himself¬†by becoming obedient to death‚ÄĒeven death on a cross!¬†Therefore God exalted him to the highest place¬†and gave him the name that is above every name,¬†that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,¬†in heaven and on earth and under the earth,¬†and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,¬†to the glory of God the Father.

For the rest of my life, I will continue to answer His call, “Follow Me” because He loved me first. We will do this thing together, with His strength as my own, as I wait patiently for the day I see God face-to-face and dwell in His house forever. Will you join me in the journey?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the right thing?

Ever since we came home from our mission, one moment of service¬†won’t let me go. It was late afternoon and the sun was beginning to drop behind the mountains. Kids were everywhere. Playing. Giggling. Holding hands. Each of our team members were busy interacting with them giving piggy back rides, kicking a ball around, and even playing with a cardboard box (which the kids thought was super fun).

Both of my hands were in the soft grips of little girls’ hands. One wanted me to listen to her. Another wanted me to watch her cartwheels and somersaults. Still older girls walked in front of me and behind, engaged in¬†everything we were doing.

Everything was fine, until my mama ears detected something. A cry. A faint whimper.

I looked over my shoulder and saw a small boy sitting on the grass with other children. He was crying and had the most pitiful face. I watched him for a second to see if he was hurt or needed immediate help. Assessing the situation, I saw he was physically fine.

My motherly instinct was to run over to him and scoop him up in my arms. I wanted to fix the problem. But if I did, I’d be leaving the company of these girls who were starving for attention.

My heart was torn. What do I do? He had other friends with him, and it was most probable that in 30 seconds he’d be back playing again. But in that¬†moment, he looked up at me and his eyes caught mine, quivering lip and all.

I did nothing.

I felt horrible. I looked at the girls with me. They weren’t crying. Their feelings weren’t hurt. They didn’t have a need. Or did they?

The old adage of the squeaky wheel getting the oil is very true with children. Ask any teacher. Even in my many years of volunteering with children it’s the same principle. However, I’ve always rooted for the underdog, squeaky or silent. It’s just my nature and I can’t help it. To me, it’s the quiet children who are often the underdogs. It’s those who continue on¬†without their needs being met because they don’t demand the attention who are often overlooked.

Perhaps I feel this way because of my own childhood. Flying under the radar keeps the peace, but it in no way meets the need.

These girls needed me. They needed me to listen to them. To watch them and ooh and ah over their gymnastics. To laugh at their jokes and hold their hands, stroke their hair. They needed me to be fully in the moment. Maybe I misread the situation. Maybe I should’ve dropped everything and ran to this sweet small boy. But, something inside me wondered what message that would send these girls who were relishing in my¬†attention.

He did stop crying and quickly resumed playing as I thought he would. His moment passed and he moved on. But for me, part of my heart is stuck in that moment for a hugely obvious reason to the heart, yet invisible to the distracted¬†eye…

His parents weren’t there for him.

Friends were there to tell him it’d be fine. They were fine to distract him and continue¬†playing. The fact is, this short moment was just one of infinite ones for children who have been abandoned or removed from their parents.

This is where my heart stings.

I know the overwhelming feeling of knowing neither Mom nor Dad are there to make pain better. To kiss a skinned knee or hug a hurt feeling away. To place their palm on a forehead to check for fever or to reassure a frightened heart it was only a nightmare.

I know what it’s like to have to search inside myself for comfort because there wasn’t any offered from anyone else. To dry my own tears. Calm myself down. Talk myself down off of the proverbial ledge. Convince myself to keep going by putting one foot in front of the other. To smile to appease others and after saying out loud the repeated lie of, “I’m fine,” to try to tell ourselves it’s the truth, when we know its not. In those dark, scary nights, there wasn’t a dad to fight the boogie man. For me, my stepdad was the boogie man to make matters worse.

Children who don’t have the comfort and security of their¬†loving mom or dad grow up really fast. My mom was awesome, but I lost her to cancer when I was 16. I never had a healthy father-daughter relationship. There is a mental and emotional innocence that is stolen, leaving a gaping hole in the heart and head of a child who doesn’t know who they are or where (or how) they fit in this big, ominous world.

My husband tells me I think too much about things sometimes. He’s right on most counts, and I probably did in this case, too. However, I was paralyzed in how to respond to this tug-of-war between precious girls and this little guy because I saw myself in both of them. I’ve been the child crying with no one to comfort me, and I’ve been the one starving for attention.

I’m not sure there was a perfect solution in this imperfect world that day.

This moment also reminded me that in mission work the need is bigger than any one person. It’s why we must rely on the strength and grace of God because only He truly understands the depth of the need. No one person can show up and save the day. Actually, there was one person who did that 2,000 years ago. It’s Christ’s grace and love and comfort I have to offer to those He calls me to serve. I offer my hands and feet and heart to He who has called me and trust He will equip them¬†for the task. And, that whatever my offering is, how ever small it may be, it is Christ working through me just as He was working with these children before I got there and will continue to work with them long after I’ve left.

Serving on mission tears me up. Every time I go, my heart is ignited with unquenchable passion for fighting injustice, loving the unlovable, helping the hurting, offering patience to¬†the frustrating, comfort for those suffering, and grace for those who don’t even know what they need.

I have been all of these people. I get it. What I have to give is the comfort the Holy Spirit has given me. I am not enough to meet the need, but God is more than enough and He so loves this broken world and every single person in it.

The cry of that sweet boy pierced my ears and fuels me to keep going whenever, wherever God leads. His little pouting bottom lip is forever etched in my mind’s eye. But so is the warmth of those beautiful girls’ hands holding mine. The joy of their laughter. Their heads resting on my shoulder in a moment of total acceptance.

The sights and sounds of his¬†pain haunts me, and that’s not a bad thing. May our ears never grow deaf, nor our eyes become blind or nor our hearts become hardened to the needs all around us. May we always be grieved by others’ pain because that’s what motivates and inspires us to get up and go help. Not through guilt, but by seizing the opportunity to share the beautiful gift of comfort we have received. What that looks like is as different as there are people in the world.

Our responsibility as believers is not to sweep in and fix everything, but to bring those broken to the One who heals (Mark 2:1-5) while we do what we can to help. We are not enough, but He who heals is.

 

Private thoughts of a short-term missionary

Monday morning greets me with mixed emotions.¬†I woke up today feeling very¬†frustrated. I have been consistently¬†diligent in putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6) and working with all the logic that’s in my crazy brain to get things ready for an upcoming¬†mission trip. On paper¬†everything looks good. But, read in between the lines and there are struggles and doubts and frustrations that eat away at my thoughts.

I am grateful for the Proverbs 31 Ministry’s devotions that appear in my inbox every day. Today, it’s like Lysa Terkeurst read my heart. Her words speak more clearly than mine as I sit here tired and sick. Here is an excerpt from¬†her devotion,¬†“When God’s Assignments Feel¬†Almost Impossible”

* * * * * * * * * *

I pulled into my driveway and stared at this gathering place my people call “home.” And my heart whispered …

Lord, am I doing all of this right?

This life You’ve entrusted to me, these people You’ve entrusted to me, this calling You’ve entrusted to me … I desperately want to get it right. To live without painful regret gnawing deep within. To know that I gave it my very best. To please You. Love them. Smile more than frowning. Laugh more than I complain. See the beauty tucked within all these sacred moments of just being together and remember to whisper,¬†Thank You.

Thank You for all of it. The whole package deal of good and bad and highs and lows. For all that mixed together sets about a process of making me. The me that needs the tough stuff to mature me. The sad moments to soften me. The thrilling moments to invigorate me. The poignant moments to endear me. The complicated moments to challenge me. The quiet moments to unrush me.

I need it all.

But sometimes, in the midst of all the moments that are making me into the woman You created me to be, I get awfully tired and discouraged.

And I find myself sitting in my driveway wondering. Staring at the culmination of thousands of decisions I’ve made that have brought me here. To this home. This family. This life.¬†I made my decisions and then my decisions made me.

I’m thankful, yes. So very thankful. But I need You to whisper reassurance into my heart that You’re with me. That You see me. And that You are pleased with me. I just need to know, Lord, am I doing this right?

Jesus instructed us to¬†“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,”¬†(Mark 16:15). That seems an impossible task for someone who sits in her driveway and feels fragile and wonders all the things I sometimes wonder.

* * * * * * * * * *

Fragile indeed. I told Bruce the other day that I wrestle with opposite dichotomies warring within:

* Continue to pursue short-term global and local missions as long as God allows and I am physically able.

* Sell it all and move to a distant land to serve full-time.

* Move to a tropical island and forget everything (just kidding, sort of!).

I feel like a nomad. When I am home doing the suburban housewife and mom thing, my heart is restless even though serving my family sometimes takes everything in me! When I am serving abroad, I reach a tipping point where I need normalcy and a sense of home. When I serve locally, I feel I am not doing enough. It makes my heart spin.

Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my favorite people. She is the mother-in-law of one of my dearest friends and she turns 80 this month. I just love talking with her! Her mind is sharp as a tack and conversations with her are thought-provoking and always entertaining.

She’s been through some major unexpected illnesses lately that have left her fragile, frail and in spinal therapy. Her already tiny frame of less than 5 feet is now curled over and even thinner than she was before. She asked me all kinds of questions about our mission trip as she has always had a keen interest in them. Once we talked through the logistics of the trip, she turned the conversation to¬†why¬†we go.

She asked questions that she really wanted sincere answers to. Questions like –¬†You feel this is right for your family? And you enjoy this? Do the kids enjoy it? What do they get out of if? How long do you think you will continue to do these mission trips?

I answered each question with a thoughtful answer:¬†For now, this is what God has called our family to. Everyone has a purpose, and we believe this is ours. Yes, we enjoy it very much. It’s the hardest, most demanding thing we’ve ever done (besides parenting) and it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat and tear. The kids love it! Mission trips are great to strip away the entitlement and materialism that our society imposes and encourages. Although our children don’t have overt¬†problems with these anyway, still if we¬†live in a society long enough its way of thinking creeps into our thoughts as being normal. These missions remind them that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that’s a good and necessary truth to know. More importantly, it’s training them to share the Gospel whenever, wherever God leads. We will go as long as the Lord allows and we are physically able.

To every answer she smiled, nodded her head and replied,¬†Okay. Alright.¬†However, she paused at my last answer about being physically able. As we stood¬†in the kitchen, she asked if I wanted a piece of cake and I said yes. She carefully, slowly, struggled to cut and serve it to me, but I knew I needed to let her do it. It was a beautiful moment. I felt God whisper,¬†She needs to do this. Let her.¬†As she worked on the slice of cake, she said,¬†You know, one day you have your health and then the next day you don’t. It’s taken away without warning. I never thought I would go through what I’ve been through, and getting back to where I was is a great struggle. Do what you can while you can do it. Enjoy life. Go on these mission trips. Do it all before you no longer can.¬†Wise words which¬†brought a tear to my eye as I bent over to hear her talk above the white noise in the crowded room of her grandson’s graduation party.

I’ve told Bruce this before. We were walking through Wal-Mart one day and I said,¬†You know, it would only take one car accident. One illness. One life change that could keep one of us from ever being able to go on mission again.¬†Life is fragile. Health is fragile although no one wants to admit it out loud. It’s partially this thought that makes me second guess¬†if I really am doing what God purposed for me in Psalm 139:16 –

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This is where Lysa Terkeurst and I share the same wonderings and ponderings. Are we getting it right?

Do I feel restless¬†here¬†because we are supposed to be¬†there? Do I miss home¬†there¬†because we are supposed to be¬†here? It’s maddening, really.

Life is so so short. As proactive and intentional as I have been about preserving my body specifically for ministry with all of the surgeries, procedures and physical therapy I’ve had since 2008, I can’t figure out how to stop time. It marches on and takes no prisoners. At the end of my life, whether that be in a year or 40+, I yearn for no regrets –¬†not that I checked off everything on¬†my¬†bucket list, but that I checked off everything on¬†God’s¬†bucket for me.¬†I desperately want to please Him even when human nature screams otherwise. I am starving for Isaiah 30:21 to be read over my life –

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.

My job is to¬†reject my idols and images and run with passion in the direction He leads (v 22). This is much¬†easier said than done. But, when I think about my dear friend who is struggling just to once again stand erect after her physical struggles, I hear a clock ticking in my head and heart. So I write openly on a blog what I’ve been praying in my heart, in a thousand different ways for a long time, that which¬†Psalm 139:23-24 sums up best –

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Lead on, God. I will follow You all the way home no matter where the journey takes me to get there.

 

It’s like riding a bike…

There are times when everything seems to harmoniously fit together and every piece, every part, is functioning the way it should. It’s beautiful.¬†Then there are times when I look at life as if it were an unassembled bike with foreign¬†instructions and extra parts left over after hours of attempting to make it look like a bike.

That’s me.

I sit and look at life, with all of its unnamed parts and half-understood instructions and wonder where I went wrong. Did I go wrong? Do I have it right? Are there simply extra parts? I thought I followed every step as directed. I sit on the floor discouraged. Unsuccessful. With a mechanical thing that in no way resembles a bike.

It’s just been that way lately. Unrelenting. Exhausting. For every effort, there is a difficulty. Two steps back. An inhale of optimism is sucker-punched from stronger forces and a nauseated exhale releases in defeat.

Trying.

Trying.

Trying.

Trying to do what I believe with my whole heart God wants me to do.

But the more I try, the less anything makes sense.

Seriously. Just as we broach the next step with faith and hope, we are blindsided and are left speechless and stunned. Numb. Our compass spinning in circles.

We trust the plan God has for our lives. From parenting to global missions to other ministries, we are pedaling pedaling pedaling on a half-made bike. We are tired.

We are working¬†so very hard to stay on the course lit by the reflection of God’s glory shining, showing us the way. Remembering to suit up in the armor of God. Remembering to love. Be gracious. Be merciful. At the same time¬†I¬†feel so incredibly vulnerable. Raw.

The more I rely¬†on God to help me in the ministries I am involved in, the more I feel alone. I know I’m not, but it’s a feeling nonetheless.

To¬†keep on truckin’¬†in easier said by one who has the wind on their¬†back and strong momentum on their bike. It feels lately as though I am riding my bike, half-assembled, straight up a mountain into the wind, with no relief for endless miles. Gears slipping and grinding the harder I try.

So how does one respond when mile after mile is gained merely inch by inch? When every thrust of the pedal is nearly impossible? When, try as I might, there is no visible evidence that anything I am doing is gaining any ground. What then?

I want to get off the bike. I want to throw the bike over the mountain and start walking…downhill. I want to give up. But, this isn’t about what I want. As a Christ follower, I am compelled to¬†surrender my preferences and lean into He who gave me the bike.

I am learning¬†like never before¬†that ministry is tough.¬†Really tough.¬†It is a battlefield and the enemy takes no prisoners. Alone as it feels, just keep pedaling. What I know is that nothing can separate me from God’s¬†love. Not the mountain. The wind. Exhaustion. Discouragement. Or the bike.

Once I rode my bike in our hilly neighborhood uphill, and nearly having a heart attack, I refused to get off of it out of sheer pride for those possibly peering through their windows at me.

Today, it is ANYTHING but pride keeping me on this bike¬†– this season of difficult ministry. What holds my feet to the pedals is an insatiable burden God gave me for those I serve. An obligation to finish what He asked me to start. Driving love and passion for what drives His love and passion. And ironically, humility keeps me pushing against logic that says quit. Knowing I can’t do this on my own, I find rest in His refuge. Contentment to endure because of¬†His¬†faithfulness – not mine. Strength in the name of Jesus.

I don’t know how long it will take to ride this bike all the way up¬†the mountain, but I place my hope in faith¬†that the view from the top will be breathtakingly spectacular…and every bit worth it.

Strength in weakness

* This post has been reblogged from our family mission blog.*

We need a place to work out the very real emotions and thoughts of a regular family trying to be obedient to God in global missions. We are fearful. Selfish. Weak.

The hope is that by fleshing out the “us” in us, we will be empty vessels that can authentically be the hands and feet of Christ to whomever He puts in our path and wherever that path leads us.¬†We deeply desire to shed the sin that so easily trips us up.

Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

It takes work to surrender – at least for me. I am stubborn. Opinionated. Obstinate. I don’t always learn things the first time and learn most lessons the hard way. I can easily become consumed by fear and worry, and am 100% guilty of going directly to the worst-case-scenario in my thoughts. My weaknesses can yell louder than my strengths, and I have been known to become paralyzed with fear. I have preferences, idiosyncrasies, and annoyances. I am ADD and OCD – each to different extents. I know exactly what pushes my buttons, as well as what pushes my sanity right off the cliff. I know what makes me cringe, nauseates me, and incites private anxiety. God knows these things about me, too.

The thought that He’d want to use me anyway is astounding!

Apostle Paul wrote in¬†2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace¬†is sufficient for you, for my power¬†is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‚Äôs power may rest on me.

When we acknowledge our weaknesses, the enemy cannot hang them over our heads, threatening to tell our secrets.¬†Beth Moore¬†said it best, “I tell on myself before the enemy has a chance to.”

Truth is, none of us are worthy in our own right to bear the name of Christ. Our lips are wicked. Isaiah knew this well…

Isaiah 6:1-5, In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

‚ÄúHoly, holy, holy is the¬†Lord¬†Almighty;¬†the whole earth¬†is full of his glory.‚ÄĚ

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.¬†‚ÄúWoe¬†to me!‚ÄĚ I cried. ‚ÄúI am ruined!¬†For I am a man of unclean lips,¬†and I live among a people of unclean lips,and my eyes have seen¬†the King,¬†the¬†Lord¬†Almighty.‚ÄĚ

Anyone who knows they have been saved by Jesus’ sacrifice knows we are not worthy to do His bidding. Still, He calls us to go and makes disciples of all nations. Wow.

Once I got it, really got it, that God first loved me (before I even knew His name), pursued me in the name of love, and Jesus saved me from my sins by counting the cost for me, my only response can be to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).

What does that look like?

Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength can be summed up in one sentence: To worship Him in every way all the time. Something I fall dreadfully short in. Never has this been a more sobering, humbling process than once our family surrendered to His call to global missions.

Romans 12:1, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

Is anything less than my everything acceptable? No. Christ gave everything to save me. I want to give Him everything in return. It’s just this annoying thing called: carnal nature, sinful nature, walking in the flesh, human nature, or whatever you want to name it that gets in the way.

There’s an old saying –¬†The only problem with a living sacrifice,¬†is that a living sacrifice can crawl off of the altar and run away.

So true!

I am left with one option. Deliberately. Knowingly. Sacrificially, give my time, talents and treasures over and over and over and over to Him again and again and again. My selfish hands keep stealing these back, but my heart, in love with the One who loves me, willingly surrenders them because being close to God is worth far more than anything this life could offer.

Jesus said in¬†John 15:13,¬†Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one‚Äôs life for one‚Äôs friends. You are my friends¬†if you do what I command.¬†We often think about the idea of giving our lives for people, or Jesus giving His life for us, but I am drawn to this verse that speaks of giving my life for my friend, Jesus (James 2:23). Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy…

2 Timothy 4:6, For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.

There is way more about the Old Testament that I don’t understand than what I do understand, but I love how Paul’s word picture of being poured out like a drink offering parallels the memorial and peace offerings (burnt, fellowship and grain offerings) that drink offerings typically accompanied in the Old Testament. A memorial offering was a reminder of our sin. ¬†A peace offering was a reminder that because of this offering we are able to have close communion with God, and that we can have peace with God (possible today through the blood Jesus shed for our sins as the final drink offering required for redemption –¬†Luke 22:20;¬†John 19:32-34).

So on this altar we call life, we lay ourselves down as living sacrifices being poured out in memory of our sins and comforted with divine peace that they are forgiven.  We do this out of our love for Him, yes, but moreover because of His love for us.

1 John 4:19, We love because he first loved us.

Turning our focus away from our own weaknesses and preferences and toward God who so loves this world, we are raptured in His love and suddenly the costs we are asked to count for Christ seem indescribably insignificant.

Luke 9:23-24,¬†And (Jesus) said to all,¬†“If anyone would come after me, let him¬†deny himself and¬†take up his cross¬†daily and follow me. For¬†whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

His love for each of us makes it possible to pick up our cross daily and follow Him – even when the world stands and stares and shakes their head in nonsensical bewilderment.

Philippians 3:12-14, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

We all have weaknesses. What a beautiful reminder that we press on toward the prize of Jesus…¬†despite¬†ourselves.

When we take our eyes off of ourselves, whatever the distractions may be, and gaze upward at the love, grace and mercy God has for us, this becomes the only thing we see. Everything that holds us to this life disappears and we find God’s strength in our weakness.

Hum the melody with me (or better yet, sing it old school with the piano –¬†click here)¬†to the classic hymn¬†Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. It is especially interesting to note that¬†Helen Howarth Lemmel, who composed the music for these lyrics in 1922, was blind. ¬†To God be the glory.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

No sooner did I…

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.   Isaiah 43:18-19

In 2010, our lives were unexpectedly flipped upside down and inside out. ¬†Unbeknownst to us, a series of events, divinely timed, methodically unfolded. ¬†However, we were completely unaware of what God was up to. ¬†What began as a normal Sunday at church turned into an eternal change in the direction of our family. ¬†The words of guest speaker, David Stevens, uprooted my entire way of thinking of what faith looks like in a person’s life. ¬†Challenging, penetrating words from a woman advocating for African orphans rocked my world one night as we watched them joyfully sing and dance and give their testimony to God’s faithfulness. ¬†Then, through God’s providence, He brought Dr. David Platt’s book, Radical, into our lives. ¬†Like birth pains, our lives were quickly becoming uncomfortable to say the least. ¬†We were compelled to examine our lives and ask God if there was anything He’d like to change about them. ¬†Do NOT ask that question if you’re not ready for the answer!

The next thing we know, we’re on a plane with our children 10-14 yrs old, headed to Africa on our first international mission trip (and our first trip out of the country). ¬†The next summer, we found ourselves in Ukraine on a different mission trip. ¬†This past summer, we were speechless as our passports were stamped in Asia on yet another different mission project.

Everything we knew normal to look like was so far in the rear view mirror we couldn’t even see it anymore. ¬†In between those times, we continued with local work in our community. ¬†I thought what God had planned to change in our lives had happened, and even though I certainly felt out of my comfort zone, I had no idea that was only the first phase of the transformation.

I really believed the “change” had happened. ¬†And it did. ¬†But, God never said anything to us about that being the only change.

Once again, I find myself being shaken. I am currently taking the Bible study, Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker.  What began as a desire to take this study from an alumni stance of, Oh I know what she is talking about!  Been there.  Done that! quickly became something different.

One day of homework shook me to my core. ¬†I admitted to my small group that God had radically shown me a peek into phase 2 of the transformation and it deals directly with me. ¬†I have a thing. ¬†Everyone has a thing, and we are quick to judge others’ things because either they makes us feel better about our thing, or their thing is just plain weird in our own eyes.

My thing has to do with my hands. ¬†It is a sensory issue mostly. ¬†My hands must be clean. ¬†I don’t wash them 18 times a day, but they must stay generally clean or the epicenter of my sanity is rocked off its axis and I cannot focus on anything until I wash them. ¬†Okay, so that’s my thing. ¬†I said it.

What does this have to do with the transformation of our family’s and my faith? ¬†A lot.

This oddity about me with my hands has held me back from experiences in life.  I love nature, animals, and all of that.  Love it!  But, as much as I love to get up close and personal with insects, please do not ask me to touch them.  I will look at them, photograph them and appreciate their place in our ecosystem, but their legs and exoskeletons make my skin crawl to imagine them touching my hands.

I love sharks. ¬†Okay, so I am a little obsessed with them! ¬†Have been my whole life. ¬†I’ve read books about them and watched nearly every documentary on them. ¬†A few years ago, I had the opportunity to touch one. ¬†I was allowed to stroke its back and dorsal fin. ¬†A moment I had waited for my entire life! ¬†As I reached into the salty water, I felt a swell of adrenaline and nausea roll over me. ¬†As much as I wanted to enjoy the moment, the slick, leathery skin that I had waited forever to touch also made me weak in the knees.

The other day, I was trying to catch a large lizard that found its way into our home. ¬†However, it wasn’t the lizard’s size, speed or agility that made me shriek like a little girl every time I missed, it was knowing it would be in my hands and I would feel every toenail, its chest heaving in distress (scared of me!) and its lose, cool skin. ¬†I think lizards are so neat! ¬†But handling them is something different.

When pumping gas, or in the salad bar line, I use my less dominant hand so the hand I use for everything else is still clean. ¬†It’s a right-handed world, and that’s fine with me! ¬†Shaking people’s hands with my right hand keeps my dominant left hand clean for everything else I need to do. ¬†A couple of times for my children’s birthday parties, I made mystery boxes that everyone stuck their hands into and had to feel their way to the items on the list. I made the box. ¬†I knew what was in it. ¬†I knew it was only spaghetti noodles hiding things like pencils, plastic dinosaurs, and bouncy balls. But, for the life of me, I could not stick my own hand in the box! ¬†Yeah, that’s me.

When we were in Africa, I really struggled. ¬†For 2 weeks, I couldn’t practice the hand-washing methods, etc. that I do here in America. ¬†However, I did embrace bucket showers and thought that if America could do this one change we’d have no more worries of clean water shortages. As much as I loved Kenya and its friendly, hospitable and warm people, being there was a huge mental obstacle for me because of my stupid hand thing. ¬†I carried so much guilt and shame around with me as I wrestled to assure myself this wasn’t a case of me thinking too highly of myself. ¬†Like, I would never touch something or someone less than me. ¬†Oh my word no! ¬†That’s not it at all.

It’s a sensory thing. ¬†Like I have 10 little brains attached to my hands. ¬†Weird, I know.

When I hold my husband or my children’s hands, I feel an emotional electricity connecting us through touch. ¬†When I knead dough, there is a feeling of workmanship and family (it’s a very old family recipe) that affects me on a deeper level. ¬†But, don’t even get me started on public door handles and bathrooms. ¬†It isn’t pretty.

So in Africa, as well as the other two countries we served in, because of this secret, odd thing, I found my place comfortably behind the camera.  As a freelance photographer, I was more than happy to be the team historian for these trips.  I was also very happy to load and lug equipment; produce and carry-out VBS with the team; harvest corn; help with soccer clinics, help start-up community playgroups, etc.  I was very happy to serve in ways that made me comfortable.  I even told myself that according to 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, we all have different gifts and talents God uses as a collective body to serve in His name.  That is true, but hiding behind those talents is not the same as using them for His glory.

Enter the Interrupted study I am taking.

On this particular day of study, God showed me that what I have known my whole life as “good enough” service to Him was no longer good enough. ¬†He wants to move me from from a place of comfort to a place where I will serve Him even if – and especially if – it is uncomfortable. ¬†It’s about living in His strength and not my own. ¬†It’s about overcoming our fears with power and victory believers have in Christ.

Sure, it’s okay to continue to use the stuff God hard-wired in me for His work, but He is now gently pushing me toward new work that requires more than I have to give.

He lovingly told me that I have been hiding behind my camera; hiding behind the title of organizer in different service projects both local and worldwide; and hiding behind my writing. ¬†Why? ¬†Because in all of those cases I get to appease my hand issue. ¬†I don’t have to necessarily be hands-on in the uncomfortable work.

I remember watching my daughter, then just 12 years old, swing, hold and play with precious children on the African mountainside completely uninhibited. ¬†I was envious of her. ¬†She sat on the ground while they braided her hair and rested in her lap. ¬†I stood on the sidelines watching through the lens of my camera – wishing I could be like her. ¬†Watching my sons hold hands with children who had an enormous amount of mucus and drainage running out of their noses, wiping it with their hands, then again taking the hands of my sons again – never to be denied and always welcomed with a smile, tears filled my eyes as I hoped those same mucus-filled hands wouldn’t find mine. ¬†If they did, I would certainly not turn them away, but it would push me right to the edge of my personal cliff.

In Asia, we worked with children who couldn’t care for themselves, and I repeatedly had to silently stop and breathe because again, as I adjusted my normal to meet theirs. ¬†I guess it turned up the fact I have the same issue with my feet. ¬†Removing my shoes, as is custom, meant I had to sometimes walk barefoot on strange floors that had many bare feet on them. ¬†The crunch of unknown substances I stepped on, or someone else’s hair getting stuck to the bottoms of my feet made me want to run outside and rub my feet in the grass. ¬†Oh the shame to feel such things on mission trips! ¬†But, I would just as quickly feel them at home, too. My oddity shows no discrimination of people, place or circumstance.

This is real. Raw. Sobering.  Embarrassing.  So why write about it?  Why risk being judged by the big world we live in?  Why set myself up for possible critique or criticism?

God is doing a new work, and I guess I want to give a very clear “before” picture, so He can get the glory for the “after” picture I trust is coming.

In our study’s small group, I confessed these things with bated breath not knowing how I’d be received. To my pleasant surprise, my humbling words were met with beautiful grace. ¬†Every single woman was so gracious! ¬†It is their response that gave me the courage to write this on a public blog. ¬†I left that morning with hope that God can change even the strangest things about people. ¬†We are, in fact, a work in progress.

We openly discussed the topic of helping the homeless and the poor and all that surrounds these desperate circumstances. Yet, as I confessed my shortcoming of the hand thing, even the nurse and occupational therapist in our group were merciful to me – and never made me feel like I was less of a believer or a person due to this obstacle that they obviously don’t share given their lines of work.

I told the group, God revealed to me with fresh eyes that I have been hiding in ministry because of this. ¬†With sincere motives, giving money, donating clothes, and serving in a food line is comfortable. ¬†Joining my kids and their friends in nursing homes to sing Christmas carols, making and donating gift baskets for women’s shelters and organizing bake sales to benefit world relief efforts is comfortable. ¬†Doing yard work and attending luncheons for widows is comfortable. ¬†Soliciting contributions from businesses for the different charities we work with is comfortable.

God is clearly telling me that while those things are good, if I am doing them to partly hide behind what isn’t comfortable, then that needs to change. ¬†I accepted His loving discipline and offered Him an open heart as best I could.

I left our small group to run a few errands at my familiar stomping ground.  No sooner did I pull up at the same old three-way stop, than I immediately saw a woman standing at the stop sign holding a sign asking for help.  At her feet sat two children.  It was chilly, windy and drizzling.

In one motion of heart and head, I instantly knew this was God placing me there to practice this new lesson of serving in the discomfort.  We keep gift bags in our car with bottled water, cans of soup and Scripture for such an occasion, but this mom and her kids needed more than that.

I cannot describe how 100% confidently sure I was that God called me to this intersection for such a time as this. ¬†Normally, we would hand them the gift bag, ask their name and tell them we would pray for them all before the light turned green and off we’d go. ¬†For years that has sufficed. ¬†Not so this day.

It was a well-trafficked intersection, in the middle of the day, in a familiar part of town, and it was a mom and two young children.  I felt very safe (an important aspect). I drove right by her without a word, but pulled into the first open parking space at Wal-Mart.  God clearly told me to get them a gift card.  I found a pretty gift card with pink flowers on it, checked out and walked with haste back to the van.

Looking back to see if they were still there, I circled the van to the closest parking space to them. ¬†I sat in the van and prayed. ¬†Of all the times I’ve tried to help people standing on the street corner, I’ve never gotten out of my car to do it.

That instant, the bondage of fear left me and I knew I was walking in God’s strength and power – not mine. ¬†I walked up to the mom and her kids and asked them if I could take them to lunch. ¬†I offered that the kids could play on the play set while we could just relax and eat. ¬†As soon as I offered, she broke down and cried and thanked me. ¬†However, someone before me had already given them lunch.

Okay.  So what now? I prayed.

I remembered Jen Hatmaker’s words in the study, Ask them their name and their story, because they never get to tell their story. ¬†

So I did. ¬†And, with all glory to God, I held out my hand to shake each of theirs. ¬†(Not a big deal to 99% of the population, but it’s a big deal to me.)

Suddenly, we were just two women smiling and talking with no regard to the many cars passing by. ¬†Her daughter had a beautiful, captivating smile and her son was incredibly polite. ¬†I offered her the gift card and she began to cry again. ¬†I gave her the name of our church to see if they could help in any way. ¬†Then I did something I’ve never done. ¬†I gave her my cell phone number.

Physical touch and sharing personal information were on my list of no’s. ¬†And, I would never blankly say it’s okay to do this in any situation, but it was okay in this one. ¬†God had given me an indescribable a peace about it.

I listened to her story and offered to pray for her family.  She gladly accepted.  In our home, we always hold hands when we pray no matter where we are.  I reached out my hand and asked if she would hold mine for the prayer.  She held out her hand, and in the moment we touched I felt a 1,000 pounds of guilt and shame I have carried my whole life over this hand thing drop like a rock.

I was a new person before we said Amen.

This mom was so sweet. ¬†Her children were precious. ¬†I could have stayed with them all day. Before leaving, I shook both of her children’s hands and gave the mom my number. I didn’t have much to write on, so she offered me the back of her poster she was holding asking for help.

I mentioned earlier that physical touch is a big deal for me, and as we both held the large poster board, and my left hand drug across it as I wrote my number on it in ink, it changed me. ¬†In a ¬†way, I had become connected to her board – her situation – her. ¬†It became very personal in that moment. ¬†It’s difficult to put into words. ¬†It wasn’t a typical drive-by/drop-off of goods and well wishes between strangers. ¬†It was two women helping each other. ¬†I hope I was a blessing to her. ¬†For certain she was to me.

When she accepted the gift card, the first words she spoke were, My children have almost nothing to wear.  Now I can buy them some clothes. It pierced my heart that her first response was to take care of her children.

Driving away, it dawned on me that she never asked me for anything. ¬†Strange! ¬†I asked her name and her story; offered them lunch; gave her a gift card; gave them our church’s number and my cell phone number; and asked if there was anything else I could do. ¬†She never asked for anything, but was so appreciative and teary.

However, truly I also received something I needed.  God broke the stronghold of the hand thing. His love superseded my hangup and His mercy and compassion won out.

I pray He continues to meet the needs of this family, as I look for them now every time I pass that intersection. ¬†I know He will. ¬†This experience was also a blessing to me because it showed me that God hasn’t given up on me and my hangups. ¬†He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and will finish the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6) even if some of us take a little longer.

Because of this experience, God has given me a new hope and fresh excitement for what phase 2 may hold.  Before, I had some sticky reservations, but I am reminded that God can do the impossible РHe can change us Рcreatures of habit that we are.

Serving where He has me, in the roles He has me in, is great.  But, now I look forward with curiosity at what in the world He may have in store.

He is good. ¬†Patient. ¬†Kind. ¬†Perfect. ¬†Forgiving. ¬†We are made in His image. ¬†Fragile. ¬†Sinful. ¬†Beautiful. ¬†Only He can put Humpty Dumpty together to create a new work with the same broken chards of the past. ¬†We are new. ¬†Whole. ¬†Lovely. ¬†Even though it is the same ol’ us.

What is He nudging you toward today? ¬†What comfort zone is He moving you away from? ¬†As we live and breathe there is a plan for our lives. The Potter continues to sculpt us into the image of His Son for plans no eye has seen nor ear has heard (1 Corinthians 2:9). ¬†Do I wish I could redo all of the times my shortcomings sabotaged a moment of ministry? ¬†Absolutely. ¬†But I will not stay in the guilt of the past because God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3;22-23). ¬†If He can forgive and forget, so can I (Psalm 103:11-12; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

However, I don’t want to completely forget so I will remember to let God keep pushing me out of my comfort zone and draw me toward wherever His heart is at work. ¬†I don’t want to miss a moment.