I feel like all I’ve been doing lately is writing. But (sniff, sniff) not for you, devoted blog readers. I am in the midst of writing daily prayer devotionals for our church to pray through during Lent, so my typing fingers have been devoted to that endeavor. Now, I suppose I could be posting them on the blog everyday, too, and BOOM! 40+ blog posts DONE! But that would feel like cheating to me, especially since I put the goal out there to complete 52 of these babies this year. That being said….
Today’s post is still going to be a bit of a cheat. Last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), I spoke at our church service. It was a challenge for me, as I knew it would be. I made it through it, with only a few tears and tremors in my voice. I wanted to share it here, too, as another way to witness to the grace and mercy I’ve been shown in my life, and to testify to the goodness of my God.
So, here we go…
At the beginning of the year, Pastor JJ invited us to spend some time with God, asking God what His plans were for us for 2016. I did that. I spent time in prayer with my Heavenly Father. And God pressed it upon my heart that I needed to be more vulnerable. More courageous. That I needed to step out in faith more often, in the ways He is calling me into, and not just in the ways I am comfortable, not just the ways that are safe. He laid in upon my heart that I needed to use my voice to glorify Him, and to share with others the way God has been in my life, how He’s redeemed parts of my life, how He has been with me in every moment of my life, even during the times that I ran from Him. And that is why I am standing before you today, stepping far out of my comfort zone. I am not a public speaker, it is nothing I am gifted in, but I stand here to honor the God who knit me together in my mother’s womb, the God who knows me intimately, the God who loves me, who holds me, who gives me forgiveness, grace, and mercy, over and over again.
When I look back over the span of my life, I see God’s hand present in all of it. Even during the times when I abandoned God, I see now that God never abandoned me. I have seen God work miracles in my life, and especially so during these most recent years. Our family stepped out in faith 4 ½ years ago when we moved to Kentucky so that JJ could go to seminary. I had known from the time we were dating that God had given JJ a calling, and that he was being led into ministry. And so, in August of 2011, we left our home, our family, our friends, our safety network. We left stable jobs, I left a business I has started only a few months before. We stepped out in faith, renting a home sight unseen, which ended up being a tiny shoebox for the 4, and then 5, of us. We moved not having jobs, not having stability, and pregnant with baby number 3. Some of our family questioned it. Some thought we were irresponsible. Some thought we were crazy. Some were angry and felt abandoned that we were moving so far away, especially since my father-in-law had just passed away a few months before we moved.
But the concerns? Theirs and ours? They were of this world. We knew that we were following God’s calling on our lives, and that nothing else mattered.
And in those first 6 months, I really wondered if we had gotten it wrong. Did we misunderstand God’s call? Was there somewhere else that we were meant to be? Once the excitement and newness of the move faded, the loneliness, sadness, and even anger, crept in. I spent much of those first months in Kentucky weeping, crying out to God, asking Him why we were brought there. It was a hard season of transition. I felt like we were wandering in the desert like the Israelites. But God kept asking us to trust. To have faith. He bolstered our faith by providing for us, exactly what we needed, in the exact time we needed it. He gave us the manna we needed to survive. And as time passed, and I became more settled, and as Kentucky began to feel like home, God began doing some hard work in my life, in our lives. God started to dismantle the lies I had believed for so long, lies about who God is, and lies about His goodness, and His presence in my life. I had such a distorted image of God. He started tearing down the walls I put up between myself and others, and walls I had put up between myself and God. I connected with God in new, different ways. I began to understand more facets of who God is, and experience grace and mercy in different ways. We found others ministering to us. We were filled to overflowing with the presence of God. We witnessed miracle after miracle, as God healed the wounded and broken parts in each of us, as God met us on our journey and walked with us, as God transformed our entire heart, mind, and soul so that we could focus on Him and not on ourselves. When we left Kentucky, we were overflowing with God’s love. So much had been poured into us, that we couldn’t help but share it with others.
And now, here we are, 7 months into our life in ministry. I won’t lie to you…it has been a lot harder than I was expecting it to be. It has been more challenging to our family, and to our marriage, than I ever thought it would be. And there have been times that I have felt like we are wandering in the desert, uncertain of our path, not knowing where God is leading us. There have been moments when I feel empty, poured out, and needing to step back into His streams of mercy and grace to be refilled. But, even in the midst of struggle, and pain, and hurt, God is there. God is still God in the midst of it all. As a family, we have learned over the past years that when we are at our weakest, at our most vulnerable, at our most broken, that is when God’s glory shines the brightest. When we lay down our pride, our hearts, our everything, at the foot of the cross, God meets us there, binds our wounds, holds us gently, and frees us from the burdens of this world. When we take on the yoke of Christ, the junk of this world falls away. We can find rest.
My prayer for you during this Lenten season is that you can find rest. That you can meet God in fresh ways. That you can experience the abundant love of the God who knit you together, the God who knows you intimately, the God triumphed over death and sin in order to bring you back to Himself.