Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Yes.

Well.

It happened.

I always knew it would. At least for the past 7 years I knew it would. But still...knowing you're going to do something feels different to actually DOING IT.

Today we sent our daughter across the world.

Without us.

For 13 days.

Not alone, obviously, since she's only "almost 16," as she would be quick to say. But having her outside the direct line of my eyes or her daddy's eyes...it might as well be alone. 

I purchased and packed an entire pharmacy for her, for any possible ailment. I made sure she took lots of bug spray, tons of warm clothes for the cold nights, and plenty of snacks.

She calmly added all the things to her luggage, if only to keep me feeling like I was actually helping.

As I drove her to the church where she was meeting up with the rest of the team, I grilled her on things. "Don't forget..." "Did you remember to pack...?" "If you need to..." 

She answered "okay," and "yes," and "I will," to it all.

And then she climbed her little self into a van, giant backpack and all, and rode away.

To GO to the world.
To be an ambassador. 
To be obedient to God's call to her.

I am BURSTING with how proud of her I am. She's so brave. And tough. And obedient to her Father. And I cannot wait to hear all about how much the Lord will pour out on her as she obeys Him.

And as I sit here in the quiet, thinking and praying and smiling and crying, I am reminded of so many other mornings in the past 7+ years...

I have sat in the quiet, dark house, and cried, and prayed, and asked the Lord why He chose to do it this way...ever since my sister died.

She was brave too. And tough. And obedient to her Father's call. She left a mark on the world, for sure. 

And she died. 

And maybe my little girl, my Faith Danielle, would've become a missionary anyway. But certainly she wouldn't have been shaken into GOING so early in life if she hadn't walked through losing her aunt Joy, the missionary, at such a young age.

Because who ever heard of an 8-year-old asking the Lord "What now, Lord? It can't be for nothing. She can't have died for nothing."

And because He is ENTIRELY faithful, He has proven that nothing is for nothing. He has used the quake of Joy's death, the shock and the pain, to widen the scope of missionaries and callings. 

There would be no trips to Bangladesh with our church if my sister hadn't died. If I hadn't spent all those quiet mornings crying, and praying, and wondering why the Lord chose to work the way He did, and why my sister's death had to be part of it...if not for all of that...this day would be just like any other day.

All I can think about, as I sit here, are all the children in Bangladesh at the school, and in the villages. The kids of the world were Joy's very favorite thing. She would've adopted them all if she could've. 

But instead, she went to heaven, my little sister, and she left a hole on the front lines of ministry.

And today...today the Lord allows me the overwhelming honor of sending my baby girl, my only daughter, to fill that hole for a time. To play games with the kids, and hand out stickers and balloons.

Last night her brothers were sniffling and hugging her, and I reminded them: "Boys, we can do this. The Lord thinks we can do it. If He's sending her, He sees us here, and He is with us. It's going to be okay."

I'm saying it to myself this morning.

Because I can't stop thinking about all the years that have gone by since my sister died. There were days when I didn't think I would be able to take another breath, when the grief and the loss were more than I could bear.

But the Lord saw this day on all of those. And somehow, in His plan that I can never understand, He stood beside me then, whispering to me that He was trustworthy and good and faithful and kind. I FELT Him carrying me. I knew He was with me. I have learned that He is all that sustains me, and all of those lessons give me strength for this day.

Courage to send my fearless little girl into the fray.
Peace to trust the One who loves her most.
Comfort in knowing she is right in the center of His plan for her.
Hope in the understanding that, even when I don't understand the ways of God, that He is entirely, ENTIRELY, faithful. 

Pray for her, and for the entire team. 

Pray for the people of Bangladesh. 

But most of all, let's all pray that we will see our loving Father at work in all our moments, all our past affecting our present, and all of our present a walk on the path He has laid before us, for the sake of the future.

When we say "YES" to the Lord, our path never only affects our own feet, but the feet of others as well.

That's what it means for a life to quake throughout eternity. For ripples to spread across the globe. For the kingdom to advance.

It isn't about me.
It isn't about you.
It isn't about Faith. Or Joy. Or anyone at all.

It's about HIM.
It's about THE ONLY ONE.

He is worth all. All that He has asked of me. All that He has asked of you. All that will come in the future. 

Yes, Lord. I don't have to understand. I only have to trust You. Teach me to trust You more. For the sake of Your kingdom, I say...

YES.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fearless

I remember distinctly the first time I felt overwhelming, paralyzing fear.

I was 6 years old. I will spare you the details, which included sleeping in my parents floor that night, and going to the altar at church to ask for prayer. (I couldn't even get the words out, because I was so young I didn't understand what was going on, only that I was afraid, all the time, and I needed to be prayed for by as many people as possible.)

I haven't spent the 31 years since then in a constant state of terror, but I have consistently battled fear in one form or another throughout my entire life.

As a teenager, I turned on every light in the house on my way to the bathroom at night.

As a newlywed, I was petrified that people in my new hometown wouldn't like me. I laid awake at night, so consumed with fear over it that I couldn't even sleep. That same fear, that I was unliked or unaccepted or too polarizing a personality to really have friends, has plagued me for many years.

Motherhood added to the focus of the fear-vise. Raising children is terrifying. What will I forget to teach them? How will they know what to do in a situation? Are they safe? Do they feel loved?

Some of those are rational concerns, and can lead us to set our minds to being better parents, and that, in and of itself, is not bad.

This is not that, not for me. I have obsessively feared, for 15 years, that one of my children would drown. The ocean, and lakes, are especially terror-inducing for me. The thought that they might fall, or be dragged, in over their heads, and I wouldn't be able to find them and save them because the water is deep and dark and swirling...I have woken up from a dead sleep, sweating and gasping and shaking and sobbing, just thinking about it.

I am aware, trust me, that fear is not from God, and is, in fact, a tactic of the devil. I have scriptures written and memorized and strategically place all over my house, reminding me of Who overcomes fear, and Who is victorious, and to Whom I belong. I KNOW my fears are irrational. I know they are the enemy attacking me, distracting me, trying to keep me cowering in a corner instead of fighting him.

Last week, I dropped my 15-year-old daughter off for the driving portion of drivers education. Her instructor was the cranky little old man who had taught the classroom portion. But unlike the class time, where there were 15 other students, the driving portion was one-on-one. And as I drove away...I was gripped with fear.

"She's innocent, and young, and trusting. She's a little bitty girl. What if she's so focused on driving that this cranky old man tries to attack her?"

That's all it started out as. A twinge of worry for my sweet daughter alone in a car with a man she barely knows.

Rational thoughts tried to intervene (all said in my head in the voice of my husband and father.)

"He's super old, and he's been doing this job for 30 years, and surely if he was a creepy man, he would've been reported by now. I'm sure its fine."

"How can anyone attack anyone while driving? That's not safe. He wouldn't try anything like that."

"Faith is a highly trained martial artist. She has learned to defend herself. She's strong and fast and has excellent situational awareness. I dare that little cranky man to try anything. She will break his nose." (This one gave me the most momentary comfort, because its true, my little bitty girl is a BEAST. I've seen her fend off attacks from 6'3" police officers and soldiers in her Krav Maga class. She can absolutely defend herself.)

But the fear continued to swirl. "She shouldn't have to go through that. It will scar her forever to have to defend herself against a physical attack. How can I get ahold of her? Why didn't I ask to ride along? I don't even know where they are going for the driving lesson. How can I find her? How can I keep her safe from this?"

By the time I was halfway home, I was so twisted up with terror that I was convinced I would return to pick her up and she would've been forced to fight off the cranky old man who was trying to attack her.

I stopped at a stoplight, with my sweaty palms gripping the steering wheel, gasping for breath trying to force myself to calm down. And then...then the Spirit rose up within me. And I began to shout.

"I know that You love her more than I do, Lord. I know that You see her. I know that You are the only one who can really protect her. Thank You that You are the one who arms her with strength. Thank You that You are the preserver of her life. Thank You that she hears Your voice, and feels the power of Your presence. Send You angels to surround her, God. Set a guard between her and any evil. Thank You that only You can truly heal us from hurt and tragedy and wrong doing done to us. I choose to trust You, Lord. I believe that You are the Redeemer of all things.

Devil, even if all that I fear comes true, I still trust my God. Do you hear me, you stupid fear? Even if all that makes me afraid comes to pass, even that isn't reason to be afraid. Because my GOD is the restorer and redeemer and healer of every single thing. Even when you think you win, you don't win."

And anyone who saw me on the road would've thought I was CRAZY. Because I was pounding the steering wheel, and pointing my finger into the air, and yelling, and laughing, and crying.

Two hours later, when I picked her up, she was none-the-worse for wear. Of course. Because it had been an entirely irrational spiral on my part.

I took that drive time, and my total meltdown, and filed it under "another time the enemy attacked me with fear, and the Spirit drove him back with the Word."

And I thanked Him for always, my whole life, being faithful to help me fight this battle. A fight against an old foe that I have become familiar with.

But something happened this morning, something that inspired me to share this little piece of my struggle.

My sweet, innocent, little bitty 15-year-old daughter is leaving in 2 days. For the mission field. She will be gone 13 days. This will be her 3rd mission, but her FIRST without either myself or her father along on the trip.

There is so much planning and packing and preparing that goes into missions work. We've been totally consumed with that for weeks now, going over the mental catalog of every possible thing she might need or want while she's in a third world country with no Target nearby. She doubled down on 10th grade to get ahead, so that she didn't miss any assignments while she was gone. It's been busy.

People, friends, have been asking me if I'm okay, and how I'm feeling about my little girl going across the WORLD without me. I keep answering "I don't know. I'm just putting one foot in front of another, and hoping that I don't lose it when she actually leaves." "I'm trying not to think about it. I'm just in denial."

This morning, though...this morning I sat down to pray, and, while there are a million things to pray about on my list...the only thing I had in my heart was the team leaving in 2 days, with my sweet little girl among them.

And so I prayed. For protection. For divine appointments. For attitudes of humility and kindness. For teamwork. For health. For hearts that prefer each other, and eyes that see the spiritual needs around them. I asked the Lord to refine them, as only a trip outside one's comfort zone truly can, and I prayed that they would bear with one another in the refining.

And when I prayed "Lord, be with my girl. Let her see You in a new way, and hear You more and more, and as she says 'Yes, Lord' on this trip, will You give her a new revelation of Your glory?"

And then I stopped. Almost as if the Lord said "Shhh" to me. The house was dark, and until that moment the only sound had been my whispered conversation with the Lord.

I sat. I waited a beat. And then I realized what He wanted me to know.

And I started laughing. And weeping. And my arms went straight up in the air. And if there hadn't been 5 sleeping people in the house, I would've shouted.

I am not afraid.

I. Am. Not. Afraid.

I AM NOT AFRAID.

Arguably a motherhood moment where a little bit of worry and fear for a child is acceptable, and I am not consumed with terror. Not only am I not consumed...

I.

AM.

NOT.

AFRAID.



Can it be that He wants to use all our moments to make us more like Himself? That giving me children isn't only about me teaching them to love the Lord, but its about teaching me to trust Him more? And when they begin to say "Yes, Lord" to whatever He asks of them, we also have an opportunity to say "Yes, Lord," too?

"The Lord is calling me to Bangladesh. Will you pray about letting me go?" One little request. One little girl, willing to say "YES."

And then a month of my husband and I praying, and finally, around the lump in our throats, saying "Yes, Lord," but really not wanting to be obedient to Him. Really wanting to keep her close.

If not for that "yes," there never would've been this morning, where I saw His hand at work in me, new and miraculous and so awe-inspiring that I just said "GLORY" as I typed the words.

I don't know if I'll still feel this excited at 5:30 on Wednesday morning, when all our planning and preparing and praying and packing turns to waving goodbye...

But I am now altogether elated with the idea of saying YES to Him so that I might be flooded again with the goodness of the ONE Who loves me so dearly, and calls me into deeper waters.

This morning, this day...God Almighty has done a miracle.

I am FEARLESS.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Humiliation and Holiness

Have you ever had a time in your life where so much was happening internally that you simply couldn't give it proper voice? And if you were asked the question "what's been going on" by someone you hadn't talked to in a while, you would either respond with a two hour download of every single thing, or (much more likely) you would look at them with your head very near to overheating, and say "I can't talk about it. It's too much."

That is how the last several month have been for me.

I've been asked a few times why I haven't been blogging, and my response has been, every time, "Because I can't give it all words. There's not enough space on my laptop, or in my head, for everything. It's all just too much."

There has been the forward march of time, and all the physical things that come with it. My 15 year old daughter started driver's education (dear God, help me) and will hopefully have her permit by the end of this week.

My 13 year old son became too tall for me to rest my chin on top of his head when he hugs me. (Not that he hugs me very often...or ever without proper incentive...incentive like he wants to go to a friend's house or play a video game or eat some of my remaining Christmas candy or is trying to get out of trouble for calling me old or uncool.)

The 10 and 7 year-old boys continue to make my life a crazy conglomeration of hilarity.

All around me, externally, things change, as they always do, but to me it seems that all of it is the same, exactly the same, compared to the changes going on in my heart.

I can't explain it all. It would take forever. It would overheat my laptop, my brain, and the whole WORLD.

I have gone through, and am continuing to go through, a rather miraculous awakening in my spirit.

And rather than try and tell you all about it, I have finally decided to take a minute and tell you why it started. Not because this story speaks highly of me at all, but because this awakening is so all consuming to my very BONES that I want all the people I come in contact with to want it too.

It started with humiliation.

I'm totally serious.

It began with a conversation with someone, someone who pointed out to me, clearly and boldly, an area in which I was really screwing up.

The inner shriveling of my pride had to be externally visible, I swear.

It stings a lot more than we care to admit, having our faults and failures pointed out to us. Sometimes people aren't even aware of how much we feel like we've just been punched in the throat by their words. That was certainly the case for me. I swallowed and I blinked and I nodded and I cleared my throat and I took the reproof...and then I HOBBLED away, not wanting it to be known that I had just had my legs all but cut from my body.

I sat with that sting for a solid day, quietly mulling it over.

And then...then I told someone else about it.

"Yesterday someone said something to me and its sitting inside me like a weight. I need to confess this ugliness to someone." And so I did. And it felt like I was talking with KNIVES in my throat.

It is HARD for me to admit when I am wrong. I don't like to be weak. I don't want to be a failure.

And that is what started it all.

Because after that, a slow, steady pattern began to emerge. I would be going about my life as normally as anyone with a house full of wild kids and a life full of activities can, and suddenly, a person, or in several cases, the voice of the Lord in my heart, would directly shine light on a fault, flaw, sin, error, weakness, etc. in my life.

R. U. D. E.

At first I was getting pretty pissed off. "Come ON, I know I'm not perfect or even close to it, but I am tired of getting picked on."

But, something else began to happen at the same time. That first humiliation that led to confession and prayer and forgiveness and heart change...that area of my life had altered so dramatically and noticeably that I felt THANKFUL for that moment of utter, breathlessly horrifying rebuke.

And as I realized that it had been a good thing to have my failure pointed out to me, and an even better thing to confess the failure to someone else...a change took place (and continues to take place) in my heart.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out any offensive way in me, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24

This verse has become a constant prayer in me. And BOY has God been pointing out the offensive ways in me. Sometimes through people, more often through His Word and His voice.

And, if I'm brutally honest, I am always relieved it is just the Lord who is fussing at me, and people don't know my junk...until the Lord follows up His gentle reprimand with a reminder of this verse: "Therefore, confess your sin to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed."(James 5:16)

R. U. D. E.

And, lest you feel this is a blog post about how I have arrived at...anywhere...its not.

I am just walking the path...

And the Lord continues to point out offensive ways in me...and you know what else is happening, as I repent of my sin and confess it and get prayer and am delivered?

I am hearing His voice more clearly than I ever have before.

He prompts me to be obedient, and then, as I am, I see Him in a whole new, miraculous light. And when I fail to be obedient, He is gentle in His reprimand...and I repent again, and somehow, in His great mercy, He leads me further along the path of everlasting life.

I feel like this is a vague, detail-deficient explanation of the total heart transformation I am currently undergoing...but maybe that's the point.

My details wouldn't be the same as yours, and probably wouldn't resonate with you. If you want to hear specifics, ask me. I will share them. I will tell you my failures. Even though I'll be pushing out the words around metaphorical throat-knives.

I am eager to receive reproof (or at least I want to be), and I desire to practice humiliation, because I HAVE SEEN AND AM SEEING THE EVIDENCE of those things working in my life for my good!

Being rebuked is horrible. Confessing sin is humiliating.

We run away from it. We fake our spiritual status in order to avoid it. We pretend our failures aren't really there. And when we can't pretend, we make excuses for them, or justify them.

Y'all. We are missing out on more of the Lord when we do these things.

WE ARE MISSING OUT ON MORE.

"He forever made perfect those who are BEING MADE HOLY" (Hebrews 10:14)

 And that's what I wanted to share from the past several months of my journey. I don't want to miss what He has for me next. He sees me as perfect because of His Son's blood, and He's making me holy, through the work of the Spirit in my heart. It's an ongoing process. Its a path.

You don't want to miss what He has for you. And, terror-inducing as it may be, a journey toward holiness is often on the other side of a little humiliation.

More and more, Lord. Lead me along the path of everlasting life. Make me holy, for Your glory.

Humiliation and all.