I prayed the wrong prayer

I’ve had missions on my mind heart and mind so much lately as sign-up deadlines approach.  In the post, An honest look at missions, I divulged some of the fears I’ve felt this year about returning to the global mission field.  In, The day I touched fear, I explored more deeply what those fears look like from the inside out.

Today, it’s a totally different story.  Just when I thought things were beginning to settle down in my mind, God had something unexpected prepared for last Thursday.

It began on Wednesday night.  We were at church for dinner before nightly activities began.  Serving the salad bar was a man I highly respect and admire (though I am not sure he knows it).  His and his wife have dedicated their retirement years to taking their grandchildren, one by one, on mission.  It is their gift to them.  I had never heard of this, but now, Lord willing, Bruce and I would love to do the same thing one day.  So my dear friend, Kermit, said Hello – always with a smile – when he saw me approach.  Hi Kermit!  I replied cheerfully, always happy to see him.

When I see him I think of one thing…Kenya.  He and his wife were part of our team in 2011 that went on mission to Kenya.  Let me just tell you that this man was incredible throughout the entire journey.  He never uttered a complaint, never said No, never looked tired, nothing!  He trucked on every day with whatever the agenda was.  Our team leaders, Don and Pat, also grandparents, as well as Kermit’s wife, Kay, were exactly the same way.  They have no idea how much I watched them work through every unexpected trial and celebrate every great moment.  Kenya was my first global mission trip as well as the first time I had ever left the States.  I was wide-eyed at the whole thing and loved every surreal moment.

Kermit was a mentor to me on that trip whether he realized it or not.  Whether it was sawing wood at an orphanage, washing feet at a children’s school on the side of the mountain, digging trenches for a foundation, or harvesting corn for an orphanage, his attitude was always an enthusiastic Yes.  At any given time you could find him quietly working – never for accolades, never bringing attention to himself.  He simply did what he came to do – serve.  And serve with a joyful heart he did.

Copyrighted photos for Real Deep Stuff - Page 194

Copyrighted photos for Real Deep Stuff - Page 195

He and his wife brought one of their grandsons with them who was graduating high school and wants to go into medicine.  He was able to observe surgeries at the only hospital in the entire area servicing 850,000 people.  So in addition to tireless efforts of physical work and long van rides across unbelievable bumpy roads, Kermit and Kay spent quality time with their grandson in the evenings encouraging him in his passion for medicine.

You can see why I am so taken back with them.  Role models.  Inspirational.

A few Sundays ago, when I was really struggling with feelings of fear of going on global mission, I stood with the congregation at church while everyone sang – but me.  Tears streamed down my cheeks.  I could not utter a word.  I was overwhlemed with emotion because in the choir stood men (including Kermit) and women who have been on mission all over the world, and yet they were able to stand and smile while singing Chris Tomlin’s song Whom Shall I Fear…

You hear me when I call, You are my morning song, Though darkness fills the night, It cannot hide the light…

Whom shall I fear?

You crush the enemy, Underneath my feet, You are my Sword and Shield, Though trouble lingers still…

Whom shall I fear?

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side.  The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

My strength is in Your name, For You alone can save, You will deliver me, Yours is the victory

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side.  The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

Whom shall I fear?  Whom shall I fear?

And nothing formed against me shall stand, You hold the whole world in your hands, I’m holding onto Your promises, You are faithful, You are faithful, You are faithful

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, The God of angel armies, Is always on my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, The God of angel armies, Is always by my side…

The God of angel armies is always by my side.

(Read more: CHRIS TOMLIN – WHOM SHALL I FEAR (GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES) LYRICS)

 It has been people I know who have inspired me the most to take our family on mission.  Celebrities make headlines and win humanitarian awards, but far and away it is people who quietly go about the Lord’s business, sacrificing their hard-earned money and vacation time, who I look at and think, Maybe I can do it, too.

With that thought, an unexpected conversation came up between my husband and me.  I was sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot with the bright morning sun beaming into the van last Thursday.  I called him to briefly chat about missions.  We’ve been so upside down and inside out about it that we seem to talk in circles.  Frustrating.

I told him that I felt a new passion to go back to Ukraine.  As for Kenya, that is still undecided.  I heard myself say to him with confidence and certainty, I’m going to Ukraine.  He basically said, Okay, but I’m not sure what I’m doing.

After the phone call, I sat silent in the van.  Something didn’t seem right.  Why wasn’t I excited that half of my decision for this year’s missions had been finally – at long last – decided?  I should’ve felt relieved, joyful and sure.  Instead, I felt very anti-climatic about the whole thing.

God spoke to me in the van and said, Why is this only about you?  Are you not half of a whole?

Immediately, my heart understood.

To know me is to know I’ve struggled my entire adult life trying to live a life of biblical submission to my husband.  It’s not how I was raised, as my biological father and step father both left my life at early ages.  I grew to be a headstrong, independent and self-reliant woman.  Partially out of mistrust of men, and partially because I never wanted to be hurt again and believed people will only let you down – especially those who are supposed to have your back.

I have such a stubborn, independent streak in me it is nearly impossible to ever ask for help of any kind from anyone.  It’s not a control thing.  It’s an I’m going to end up having to do it anyway so why go through the grueling process of involving others because they are only going to let me down thing.

So, without me even realizing it, missions had become yet another area where I took the ball and ran.  Rather than looking at these opportunities with my heart toward my husband, I was peering through the glasses of practicality and reasonability.

I had been praying the wrong prayer of God, where do You want to send me?  Instead of, God where do you want to send us?

I didn’t even realize I had morphed my independent nature into missions!  Bruce and I are different people with different passions.  But, we are two halves of a whole.  When we made a covenant oath at the altar almost 23 years ago, we were joined into one flesh.

Leaving consideration for him out of my prayer was selfish.  And it was the feeling of, I got my way, that I felt in the van that left me celebrating alone.

Despite my good intentions of doing God’s kingdom work here on earth, my carnal nature creeped into my thoughts.  Here’s why…the first two mission trips were very scary for me.  I am not a seasoned world traveler.  I am not bilingual.  I am not proficient in cultural differences around the world compared to my own – other than the obvious ones.

It was all of these I’m nots that kept me from feeling qualified or invited to go on mission for my entire life until now.  Fast forward – jumped those hurdles, but it still took more courage than I could muster up to commit, particularly because these mission trips involved taking our children which I take very seriously.  I needed Bruce to make the final call.  As the leader of our home, I needed him to say yes or no.  So for both trips, I passed the baton to him to decide.

This year, however, it felt very different for me.  I’ve been to both places, so there aren’t near as many unknowns.  I also understand more what is expected from me from the team.  I simply feel more prepared than before – as much as it is possible to feel.

Enter my stubborn independence.

I was ready to possibly take an entirely different mission trip from my husband, without ever hearing his final point-of-view…and God let me feel every last ounce of that loneliness.

There is a time and season for everything, and I am sure there will come a time when we do participate in different mission trips, but neither one of believe that time has come yet.  It was out of sheer self-reliance that I went ahead and told him what I was going to do.  Hmm.  Then God brought to mind our crazy life.  Between work, kids, and all of our commitments, we have to scratch and claw for anytime together.  It could always be worse, but it’s not ideal.  We know this is a season of life, and all too soon our house will be deafeningly quiet and I will mourn for the wonderful chaos that greets me in the morning and tucks me in at night.

Given that, why would I not bat an eye at the possibility of spending weeks apart?  I believed my own lie of being too independent.  God brought to mind my biological father and his wife.  You’ve never seen a closer couple.  They were best friends.  Inseparable.  Loving.  Considerate.  Two halves that made a beautiful whole.

I want that.

Watching her care for him in his last days, the intimacy they shared – the eye contact, touch, whispers, – was the result of many years of building a marriage that was committed.  Resolute.  I used to think it was a little over the top that they always had to sit together, go places together, etc.  Now that he is gone, I see that they were intentional about making the most of their time together.  There were their own persons, yes, but they never forgot they were two halves of a whole.

After pondering all of this, still sitting in the parking lot, I texted Bruce.  This is what I wrote, Hi Honey, I wanted to tell you that after giving it a lot of thought, I would rather go with you on mission to wherever than without you on mission to wherever.  I often think about Ray and Gail and their relationship.  They were inseparable.  They were best friends and did everything together.  I would like to see that for us in missions, so I concede to wherever it is you want to go just as long as we can be together or unless God says differently.  We are one flesh, one team, and I don’t want to break up the team.  Think about it and let me know.  I love you.

That text was surprisingly freeing for me!  I felt like my heart was finally in a place of peace.  Funny, the first two years I needed him to make the decision as to where to go. This year, I asked him to.  I may have felt my inner wild horse buck and kick, but my heart knew that missions isn’t one more thing I want to lead us on different paths.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine (who went to Ukraine with us last year) asked me if we were going to sign-up for it this year.  With a calm, peaceful smile I was able to genuinely reply, I’m waiting on Bruce to make that call…and if so, I’m leaving it up to him to sign up us.

That, friends, is the work of the Holy Spirit because the independent woman writing this would normally take matters into her own hands.

She smiled at me and said, Oh, you’re working on the “s” word, huh?  I laughed because I knew what word she meant – submission.   Indeed I am.  Waiting for Bruce to write our names down is very important to me for whatever reason.  I suppose it shows his iniative after much prayer and discussion, though I haven’t told him this is my wish.

Last night, before we left to watch the Superbowl with some friends, Bruce casually told me as we gathered coats and a chocolate cake,  Oh by the way, earlier today I put our names down for Ukraine.

His words stopped me in my tracks in the middle of the kitchen.  Later, I circled back with him and inquired.  He agreed that this is the only option for our family to go on mission all together.  He feels a peace about it and we are all excited.  God knew my secret wish for Bruce to write our names down on any of the trips we take this year, and He directed Bruce to do so out of loving consideration for me.  God is the good God and knows our secret thoughts.  Incredible.

So, one decision down and one to go – Kenya.  God has given us much peace that this decision will come in His timing, not ours.  So be it.  For now, I look forward to going back to people we fell in love with in Eastern Europe; to work with a team we greatly admire; we get to take all of our kids; and…most of all…Bruce and I have the blessing of going on mission together.

God is good.  Actually, He is amazing!  Every year, the decisions we have made about missions have been completely unique to the trip.  This year is no different.  God’s ways are not our ways, and His timing certainly doesn’t hold itself to our society’s demand for instant information, but His ways are best.  Had He given us the answer early on, I would have missed a teachable moment to see that in this process, Bruce and I walked dangerously close to the line of separating our longitude and latitude, once again, for the good of the cause.  We do enough of that in our daily lives.

When the time comes to travel separately for missions, God will give us a peace about that and we will perfectly okay with it.  For now, I write to testify that Philippians 4:6-7 really works in and through all things – even with a strong-willed, autonomous person like myself. 😉

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Today, and on mission, I won’t forget I am half of a whole.  Colossians 3:15 reminds us – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Thankful, indeed.

Psalm 139…Amish-Country Style

Psalm 139 has been my life Scripture.  While in Ukraine, I relied heavily on God’s message in this Psalm for courage and strength.  For instance, I don’t mind flying, but it’s not on my list of favorites by far.  When I fly, I always recite verses 9-10, and it helps me remember who is in control of the plane and the journey.  Or, when I walked 32 flights of stairs to visit with some precious Ukrainian people in their apartment because the building’s elevator was iffy, I heard verses 2-3 roll around in my mind.  God continues to speak to me through this collection of verses, so thought I would share this post again and hope it speaks to you, too! 🙂

This passage has shared mountain-top highs with me and pulled my soul out of the pit.  It is a joy to offer a visual perspective of David’s incredible, tender heart seen through the eyes of the Amish country.

Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24

Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit

and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out

and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in – behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to attain.

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.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

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.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

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

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake, I am still with you.

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.

Living the Dream

There is an image I cannot erase from my mind.  Travel with me for a moment to Kenya.  At the end of the safari, my family rode in a gutted JEEP back toward civilization.  Our driver, an authentic Masai warrior, barrels over rough terrain, nearly missing zebras, antelope  and wildebeest.  The JEEP throws us around, like an amusement park simulator ride on massive steroids!

(Our wild drive across the Mara.  The dark dots are all kinds of wild animals traveling together)

I look behind me, and the rest of our crew is closing in on us in their JEEPs with their drivers.  It looked like a scene from Indiana Jones with 6 stripped down, dirty JEEPS blazing across the Mara leaving thick dust trails behind them.  Like stunt drivers performing a rehearsed routine, our Masai drivers were in a race to get their JEEP back to the main road first.  This was our amazing adventure for at least 2 hours.  It was the most freeing ride I’ve ever taken.  Wide open plains dotted with wild animals.  Full throttle.  Full sun.  Then…the most unexpected thing EVER happened.

(A sample of the open plain we traversed)

Music!  Music began to play.  Not just any music.  Our Masai warrior hits a switch, and amidst the loud, rushing wind and hair slapping me in the face, Justin Bieber’s song, “Baby” began to play.  What?  Our entire family busted out laughing and asked how in the WORLD did this warrior, who kills lions with his bare hands, get a hold of this music?  I commented that Bieber would probably never imagine his music being the backdrop for a crazy thrill ride across the Mara in Africa.

Our driver, donning his personal machete and gorgeous, exquisite Masai garb, told us that previous travelers turned him on to it.  After “Baby” was done, Jamaican island music rang out over the whistling wind.  Wrong landscape, but surely more fitting than American pop music. Again, a gift from previous travelers.  Bruce asked him how he was playing music in this old, gutted JEEP.  He explained that he had made a homemade iPod of sorts and hardwired it to the vehicle.  We were impressed with his ingenuity!

But, I digress.

As we embraced the rocky, grassy, unmarked plains of the Masai territory working our way back to Kipsigis country, in the far distance we saw the most unbelievable sight!  Every time I think about it I get chills.

Far off on the horizon, we saw a dark figure moving very fast.  Squinting my eyes, straining to see, I caught the glimpse of  a man.  Running.  Foot travel is the mode of transportation for most people in Kenya, but there wasn’t anything typical about this man.  He was wearing athletic shorts, a crisp, white tank top, white knee socks and running sneakers.  None of which had we seen anywhere in our time in Kenya.  Where had he come from, and where was he going?

We all gasped at the same time and said, Surely he is in training!  For the Olympics, perhaps?  We asked our Masai driver and he concurred.  He didn’t know the man, but said Olympic hopefuls do, in fact, train in this terrain.  Our jaws fell agape as we watched, mesmerized, at this mystery man’s grace and speed.  This man was the fastest runner I’ve ever personally seen with my own eyes.  And poise!  His long legs stretched out before and behind him, back straight, arms taut – he didn’t even seem real.

No one has bright, white clothes in the Mara.  They wear native attire.  No one has shoes and socks so brilliantly crisp we could easily spot them from a distance. They are barefoot.  Oh yes, he was training indeed.

And, think about where he was running!  Most runners I see run in the city, suburbs or on greenway trails.  This man was completely alone, running in the land of hungry lions, temperamental Cape buffalo, sly jaguars, wicked- fast cheetahs, territorial hippos, elusive rhinos, venomous snakes and audacious hyenas.  As much as that thought would make ME run like the wind (for my life!), I still could not have done what he did.  He had a goal and was training for a dream.

Did he realize he was living his dream?  How about us?  Are we?  Do we?

For this man, he was already living his dream.  At some point, he stopped his normal day’s work, put on his training outfit (perhaps sponsored by someone?), and took his first step.  That step led to more, quicker steps, and those led to miles and miles of lightening fast, all-out running – racing the wind and daring the company of wild beasts.

I have never seen anything so inspirational of the human spirit.  I’ve watched Dateline and 60 Minutes who produce shows based on the one in a million who beat all odds to compete in sports, music and fine arts.  But, those shows have an ending.  There is closure when the man or woman, child or adult proves they have accomplished their goals.  I never have I witnessed the dream in play.

This man’s race has not yet happened.  Does that make him less of a runner?  Or, does working hard every day – rain or shine, sick or healthy – running the Mara make him a runner?

The answer is obvious.  He is, in fact, a race runner right now.

For those of us who most likely will never train in the Mara, what are the dreams that stir our heart?  They are just as important as this man’s, but do we give them the same credit?

Or, do we choose to let the mundane monotony of life be our excuse for not suiting up (be it arming ourselves with a paintbrush, a pen, a camera, a tool, a musical instrument, or our voices) and accept our place on the sidelines?

God gives us dreams.  Dreams spur on hope, give us reason to fight against hardships and ignite purpose on our lives.  Once we have given those dreams to God, asking permission to pursue them in His timing and for His glory, what holds us back?

I think the biggest thing that holds us back is – us.  We feel our limitations.  We listen to the doubt inside us that reminds us of our inadequacies and past failures.  We measure ourselves against the world and believe that we have nothing to offer.  Surely we are not as good as the next man or woman or child.

This happened to me just recently.  I was trapped in a conversation with someone who made me feel really bad about myself.  The topic was photography.  I will spare you the long story, but suffice it to say I told him, in an effort to end the conversation and diffuse his temper, that I was not a real photographer.  When I said those words, a part of me died.  I totally sold myself out because of a man I barely knew.  I went home and sobbed to my husband that my entire history of photography, that began when I was 10 years old when, for my birthday, my great-grandmother put a 110 instamatic in my hands and instantly I found my voice to the world, was gone.  All of my work, albeit unpaid, was suddenly worthless.  Because I don’t have credentials behind my name, or awards on my bookshelves, or a paycheck to prove it – I sold my dream for the price of exiting a conversation.

I felt numb for a few days.  Perhaps, deep down, this is indeed how I felt about myself, and it took verbally cornering me to bring it out?  Or, perhaps, I reduced myself to the world’s standards and realized I didn’t measure up.  Or, perhaps still, I caved under the pressure and said something I didn’t really believe.

For me, I know it was the third choice. In the days following, God had to show me, in His own unique way, the truth of who I am.  He proverbially picked me up, brushed off my knees and wiped the tears from my eyes.  He showed me who I am in Him, and that person is someone who believes in her dreams and wants to enjoy every part of the journey, whether anyone else believes in me or not.

Ironically, not by coincidence, God recently put me in not one, but two situations where my being a photographer was validated by two separate people – on their own initiative, not mine.  I don’t even know these people.  God caused our paths to cross, and I believe it was to reinforce exactly what I felt about the race runner I saw in the Mara.  Because, what I felt about that man was that although he had not yet won the public affirmation for which he was training, he was absolutely a true runner in my opinion.  No doubt.

The same takeaway is for us.  Perhaps more than a single race to prove who wins; it is ignoring what others say about us; it is the numerous days, months and years of practice; it is the countless miles we run in our own way that validate our dreams.

I once ran a 5K cold.  My daughter was entered in the race, but when we got there, we were surprised to see hundreds of runners and hundreds of their family members and friends.  My daughter didn’t have a cell phone and wasn’t familiar with the trail.  All of her fellow group runners had already begun.  She was alone.  There was no way I was going to let my daughter disappear into a crowd of a sea of people and weave her way through 3+ miles of unfamiliar roads.  Spontaneously, I signed myself up, pinned a number to my shirt and off we went.  We ran the whole thing, but unlike her, I had not trained for it.  Did that race make me a runner?  No!  It made me a protective mother.

My point is, even some who show up for the race aren’t necessarily runners at heart.  Many people have many motives for why they do what they do.

It’s those of us who forge on, despite criticism, despite our own self-doubt, despite the rough travel and slim odds – who are truly living the dream.  The dream is the journey.

Are you living your dream today? 🙂

Dear God

Good morning God,

Wow.  It’s today.  The day.  A day that marks the end of a season – an era.  A time in which I’ve wanted nothing but to be obedient to You, but often wondered if I was doing a good job.  Wondering if I was measuring that “good job” against what the world says is good, or what You say.

I accepted this task with curiosity and a sense of adventure, and what an adventure it has been!  There were more precious memories made than I could have ever imagined.  I felt sky-highs and valley-lows.  There were times when I felt so capable and courageous, and other times I couldn’t find one thing right I did in the entire day.

You were there for all of it.  The challenging, the rewarding, the mundane and the wild ride these last years have been.  I have felt much angst and worry over the responsibilities I was given, but because You constantly reminded me that You were with me, I could pass the overwhelming emotions on to You so I could concentrate on the task at hand.  Thank You for having arms big enough to carry every single one of my concerns and fears.

The journey You have led me on has produced a different person within myself.  I have never felt more loved and accepted, but I have never been more aware of the weaknesses in me.  You blended both together to create someone who believes a little more that You do love me just as I am, and that You want to flesh out what is not of You, so that Your light can shine all the brighter.

There have been many laughs, some tears, and countless memories made.  I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything in the world.  Each moment – a step closer to You.  This year, in particular, stretched me farther than I thought I could without breaking.  However, I broke and am broken.  Losing my dad in the midst of the work You set before me, and my husband’s surgery, my mother-in-law’s cancer and my back injury and the necessary work on our home in the midst of the chaos, You heard every doubt I had about doing a good job with the task You gave me.  I came to the end of myself emotionally every single day, but not once did You leave me feeling alone.

You moved heaven and earth to show me, in small and large ways, that You see, You hear, You know – and You know how to meet the need.  Through the loving, kind words and deeds of others, You whispered to me, This is from Me, too.

The chapter on this season is closing.  I find myself wondering what is next?  I want to know, but then again, I am a little afraid to ask.  Ignorance is bliss, right?  Perhaps I won’t ask You, and find peace in You revealing it in Your time.

I will miss these days.  Terribly.  I will always doubt how well I did my job, but I will never doubt how well You did Yours.

I trust that Your checklist is complete, though mine isn’t.    But then again, mine will never be – perfectionist that I am.  You are Grace.  Mercy.  Love.  Those three truths about You cover what I feel are my failures.

I have learned so much about You, life and Your plan over the last three years.  Ephesians 3:17-19 have truly come to life in my life on this journey –

…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

I have learned that Your will really does precede mine, even when I push for what I want.  You work for our best interest, and sometimes that required trust to have faith in Your plan.  You taught me the depth of John 3:30 –

He must become greater; I must become less.

You even reiterated a Scripture many of us would like to skip over, Philippians 2:14 –

Do everything without complaining or arguing,

You kept Your promise in James 1:5 –

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 

I celebrate You, God, and that we made it to the finish line – together.  You have been my Coach, Manager, and Cheerleader.  The work You have done is amazing.  I sit and marvel at the beautiful finish You have given me the privilege to see.

I choose to rest in knowing that You will provide for me on the days when I want to run back to this race instead of the next one that waits for me.  When I stop and think about how much I will miss parts of this journey, my heart swells and a huge lump forms in my throat.  I think to myself, I can’t take the next step.  I want things to stay just as they are.  But they can’t because we are different people now and thus, You have a different race for us to run.

You are moving on to the next venture, and I must willingly pack up my memories, wrap them with tender heartstrings, and carry them as I follow You.

I choose to stay obedient to You, Lord.  It’s not easy sometimes, because my heart gets in the way.  I have such a hard time of letting go what I hold so dear, but You say to hold out an empty hand in expectancy of what next You will bring.  I guess it’s hard for me because moments like this remind me just how short life is and how fast it moves.

But then again, with that I am also reminded that this life is not all there is.  There is another place, another home, another life waiting for me.  One that will never end.  Thank You.

So, God, here we are.  A day of celebration of what You have done – and what we have done together.  Thank You for these years, months, days and moments.  Thank You for letting me keep the memories of them as I pack up what is no longer needed, to make room for what You are bringing next in this amazing race.

I choose to trust You.  You know the ways in which I need to feel Your presence most, and You are faithful.  Psalm 117:1-2 tells me so –

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.  For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.

Praise You, I will.  Gladly.  You have given me three of the best years of my life!  Not without hardship, heartache and a lot of hard work, but full of Your presence, joy, peace and faithfulness.  You are so good.

I give You this day of celebration.  You gave today to me, and I offer it back to You as an offering of these years.  May Your love shine bright, Your peace overflow and the magnificence of Your resplendent goodness be the energy of every moment, word and deed.

Precious Lord, the book of Jude says best what my heart feels, verses 24 & 25.  Thank You…for everything.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  

Psalm 139…Amish-Country Style

When I visited the Amish country, I had no idea I would ever write a blog.  I feel humbled and privileged that God had in mind to put some of my photos from this trip to Scripture and post them here.  Life really is a journey, and with Him it is never boring.

Psalm 139 has been my life Scripture.  This passage has shared mountain-top highs with me and pulled my soul out of the pit.  It is a joy to offer a visual perspective of David’s incredible, tender heart in a unique way. I hope it speaks to you, too.

Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24

Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit

and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out

and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in – behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to attain.

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.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

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.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

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

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake, I am still with you.

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.

Remembering

Thinking today about all of the brave men and women who sacrificed for our freedom.  When I stopped and thought about it, there are more military men, and one woman, in my family than I even realized.

A special thanks to my: grandfather, father, father-in-law, husband, uncle, uncle on my husband’s side, half brother, cousin on my husband’s side, step uncle, 2 step nephews, a dear family friend who is like family to us and all of our friends serving stateside and abroad.

THANK YOU to everyone who embraced Jesus’ words in John 15:12-13, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

May today be a day to remember those who lost their loved ones in service to our country, prayer for the family and friends who miss them so much, and a day of gratitude for those we still have in our lives to hold dear.

I took these photos when we visited Arlington Cemetery.  It was humbling, and a bit overwhelming, to stand in a place surrounded by countless names of those who loved their country so much they would die for it.  One of my children’s teachers is still in the service.  Every morning, when students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance, one student refuses to stand.  This teacher told my child’s class (a different class than this student is in) that at a moment’s notice, he is ready to literally drop everything and serve his country – so he can defend the student’s right to abstain from the Pledge.  Wow.  There is tremendous emotion in his words.

In a day of reflection, may God’s sovereignty, wisdom, mercy, peace and grace be upon us today and always.

Psalm 23…Kenyan Style

Like visiting the home where we grew up, or seeing an old friend, sometimes reading classic Scripture hits the spot.  It’s familiar – like favorite coffee, summer rain or old slippers.  Through the memories of all of the times I’ve heard or read the 23rd Psalm, I am brought to a place of peace, tranquility and rejuvenation.  Today, I’ve put this Scripture to our Kenya photos so it can be enjoyed from a visual perspective.  Have a wonderful day!

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me,

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.