Beyond Amazed

If it's important to you, it's important to God!.png

When I was in school, I had a best friend. We did everything together. We did sleepovers at each other’s homes. We were inseparable. . .until the day she left. Not only did her parents join another church, but they also sent my friend to a new school.  I was devastated! Who would I play with? Who would join me for Sunday School? Who would listen to my stories, have my back, and be my shoulder to cry on?

Despite the separation, we stayed close throughout our teen years and even throughout college. Though we attended different churches and schools, we still had one common thread—we were studying to become teachers. For a few years, that was enough to keep our friendship intact, but as the years passed and she became a mother, suddenly things changed. We had nothing in common in more. We didn’t travel in any of the same circles or share any of the same friends. All we had was the past, but despite our efforts to hold things together, we grew apart. Yes, we’re still friends, but we’re not close. At least, not like we used to be.

Recently, I’ve felt that same sting of loneliness as I said “Goodbye” to my former way of life and the friends who shared in that. Now, please understand, my friends haven’t abandoned me, but things are not the same. Most of my closest friends are members of our church, but because Jason and I are in a different church every week (and sometimes every service) during this deputation journey, I rarely get to see these precious ladies. So, in a sense, it feels like I’ve lost them, like we no longer have anything in common.  

During my devotion time last week, I poured out my heart to God and told Him how much I longed to hold on to my existing friendships and to make some new friends, specifically ladies with whom I have a lot in common. Since deputation is my current way of life and the way of life for the foreseeable future, I felt missionary wives would make a good fit, but how would that work exactly?  After all, we’re all busy doing our own thing, trying to make things fit while traveling the road week after week. How could I connect with these women, let alone maintain a friendship? I didn’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I pleaded with God to help me make friends with someone (or many someones) who truly understood where I am right now.

Later that same day, I received an invitation to join a Facebook group for missionary wives. My jaw dropped as I read the description of this group that was formed so missionary wives could fellowship together and not feel so alone.  The group was designed to be an encouragement to those on the field and deputation. And best of all, what is said in the group stays within the group. It was an answer to prayer. (And I didn’t even know God used Facebook!)

Through this situation, God reminded me how much He loves and cares for me. To anyone else, my longing for friendship probably seemed frivolous and selfish. With all the problems going on in the world, who cares if one little insecure redhead is feeling lonely? God does. He cared enough to send me an answer on that very day. He cared enough to send not one potential friend, but hundreds. He cared enough to speak to another missionary wife and whisper to her to send the invitation to me. All of that and more so that I would feel I had someone to talk to who understood what I was going through. That, my friend, is how much God cares.

And that’s how much He cares for you. No problem is too big. No situation is too small. You may think your request is silly or insignificant, but if it’s important to you, it’s important to God. So, don’t hold back your requests. Let Him know what You need. Pour out your heart to Him. And stand back and watch as He proves His love and devotion to you in ways you’ve never imagined.  

Together, we can marvel at God’s goodness. Yes, my friend, as I bask in answered prayer and the love of my Father, I find myself beyond amazed! I pray you will enjoy the same blessing.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
— Matthew 7:7-11

Walking in Unfamiliar Territory

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Barnabas loves to hike! It doesn’t matter if we’ve walked the same trail a hundred times; he acts like it’s a whole new experience. He runs and plays and wears himself out. And because he is so good at hiking off-leash, Jason and I can hike at our own pace. Barnabas knows his boundaries. He understands he is allowed to venture off the trail, run ahead, or lag behind as long as we are always in his sight. And Barnabas follows the rules better than any other dog we’ve had. He’ll run over to the side to study something and pop his head up every few seconds to be sure he can still see us. If we move far enough away that he loses track, he forsakes his current study and runs after us. He stops at every bend in the trail to ensure we’re never out of sight. Every hike is a pleasant experience for each of us, and we love that we can depend on him to be so cooperative. Despite his many quirks, he truly is a good dog!

When we took him out yesterday for some much-needed exercise, we did a portion of the trail we’ve only done once or twice with him, and we immediately noticed something. Because the path was unfamiliar to him, he stayed within ten feet of us at all times. He still explored and kept his own pace, but he never strayed too far from our presence. Once we reached the familiar portion of the trail, however, he let loose and did his own thing though still within the bounds of what he knows we expect of him. As we discussed his behavior, Jason made a comment that echoed the words of my prayer that morning. He said, “Yes, he stays close when in unfamiliar territory, but once he’s back in his comfort zone, he feels more comfortable to stray farther from us.”

During my prayer walk earlier that day, I had poured out my heart to the Lord about how far out of our comfort zones Jason and I felt lately. For me, I’m a creature of habit and routine, so the concept of being in a different church every week and always meeting new people is a bit overwhelming. For Jason, he is one who loves to be active and doing, so sitting at a desk for hours on end calling and emailing pastors and churches to book meetings is tiresome and tedious. We’ve both had to fight the temptation to say, “Let’s do something else today. Let’s do what we’re familiar with, what we’re comfortable with.” Some days, we have to make ourselves to what we know we need to do.

As I laid out my heart, a thought struck me, and I verbalized it to the Lord. “But maybe that’s the way you want it to be, Lord. Maybe you want us to be out of our comfort zones so we’ll stay close to You, so we’ll lean on You for strength and support. Maybe our time here is so we can learn to depend and trust on You more. So, Lord, please help us to keep this in mind when we get discouraged and want to quit. Remind us there’s a purpose for being in unfamiliar territory and give us the grace and strength to accept where we are.”

I guess we’re no different from Barnabas. When we’re in familiar territory, we tend to do our own thing and go our own way. Sure, we stay within sight of our Master, but are we really walking with Him? Once we’re out of our comfort zones, it’s an entirely different story. We stay close to the Master. We have to. We don’t know which way to go or what to do. We need His guidance. We crave His assurance. We depend on His knowledge and strength. Yes, in our uncertainty, we’re less likely to stray. And considering that—as difficult as it is for me to say—I thank God for removing us from our comfort zones. I praise Him for loving us enough to lead us through unfamiliar territory. The entire process serves as another reminder that what I think is good is not always what is best. Thankfully, God knows the difference!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.
— Psalm 37:23
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9
And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
— Joshua 3:3-4

Turn the Page

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Today, I want to do something a little different again. I’d like to share with your our weekly mission update because it serves as not only an accounting of our mission efforts for the week but also of God’s faithfulness and goodness. If you’re facing a dark trial and wondering if God still cares, please read this!

“Sometimes before a miracle, our God sets the stage to show He will always come through, so turn the page.”

— Turn the Page by Jim Brady, Barry Weeks, & Tony Wood

That quote is from one of my favorite songs and reminds me that when things seem the darkest, God is simply setting the stage for another miracle. So, allow me to set the scene.

On Tuesday of last week, we had an unexpected expense of $100. Ouch, right? But nothing too big for our God.

On Wednesday, I had a doctor’s appointment (always pricey) the insurance company didn’t cover. Double ouch!

On Thursday, we took our Xterra into the shop, hoping its recent skipping was merely a spark plug issue or possibly the need for new wires. The plugs were fine, but the wires were shot, and so was the distributor. Seriously?

All of this happened, I should mention, after Jason received one of the lowest paychecks I ever remember. Yes, the grand total of hours for the two-week paycheck was 38. When you’re used to having 40 hours each week and getting a check for 80 hours, getting one for 38 is a kick in the gut. As you can imagine, by the end of the week, we were (or at least, I was) growing a bit anxious and discouraged.

Turn the page. . .

On Sunday, we had service with the precious people at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Marion, NC. The pastor graciously turned the entire morning service over to Jason (except the music, of course), giving him plenty of time to present our burden for Wales and to preach a moving message. Though Jason was intimidated by the size of the church and the amount of time he had to fill, he did a fabulous job and beautifully conveyed both our mission efforts and the lesson God had laid on his heart. When he turned the service over to the pastor, the pastor and church voted to take us on for monthly support. In the blink of an eye, we were that much closer to the mission field of Wales. We were speechless!

As we headed out to have dinner with the pastor and his dear wife and grand-daughter after the morning service, Jason handed me the love offering he had been given. I opened the envelope to peek at the amount and nearly fell over. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I won’t give you the specifics, but I’ll tell you this much: the amount of money in that envelope more than covered all of the unexpected expenses of the week. That, my friends, is just like God! He had set the stage, and once again, He came through in a mighty and miraculous way.

After lunch, we enjoyed some quiet time in the church parsonage and then made our way to the evening service. As in the morning worship, the singing (congregational, choir, and special) was out of this world. So much talent and all used for the glory of the Lord! That evening, a young man who is attending the Bible college at Zion Hill, preached a powerful message on trading in our best for lesser things.

The entire day was a lovely time of spiritual food and Christian fellowship. It was such a blessing to be around such caring people and to—once again—feel welcomed and loved. Pastor Walker and his wife were a delight to be around and were such an encouragement to us. All in all, the day served as a beautiful reminder of how God takes care of His children!

What a mighty God we serve! His love and compassion have no bounds, and He is faithful to the end. No matter how dark the valley may seem, turn the page. God has something unbelievable just around the bend.