Out of My Comfort Zone

He will give me the strength I need for every step of the journey, even those residing outside my comfort zone..png

This weekend brought in a flurry of wintry weather in my area. The rain/snow/sleet mix began Saturday evening and continued until late Sunday afternoon, turning to rain overnight. According to the forecast, the rain is supposed to continue all day today (Monday). Our first winter storm of the season!

I didn’t mind the weather. It allowed Jason and I to have some quiet time together and to decorate our house for Christmas. And since we were fortunate enough not to lose power, the precipitation didn’t affect us much otherwise.  

Barnabas, on the other hand, was not a fan of the wintry mix. He didn’t appreciate the howling wind that kept him awake. He didn’t understand the constant tapping of the sleet against the windows. And the white blanket of cold, icy snow covering the ground mystified him. But the worst of it was the crashing of the sheets of snow and ice as they melted and fell from the roof, causing our confused canine to run from window to window barking at some unseen enemy. “Danger! Danger!” Bless his heart!

The poor pup was out of his comfort zone. Way, way beyond his comfort zone. I get it. I understand exactly how he felt. For him, the discomforting circumstances only lasted a few days, but for me, the process seems endless. I am thrilled that Jason and I have been called to the mission field in Wales, and part of me is excited about this new leg of our journey. That being said, there is also a large part of me that is running from place to place “barking” at some unseen enemy.   My normal has been turned upside down, and I no longer recognize my life.

The previous portion of my journey included being an integral part of our church services and enjoying the weekly fellowship with my church family. I worked on books, devotions, and videos. I poured my heart into my weekly Bible lessons for my Ladies’ Sunday School class. I made a difference in the lives of others. And it felt good. I enjoyed using my talents for the Lord and doing all I could to make others feel blessed and encouraged. I appreciated the sense of belonging I felt every time I entered our church. It was my home away from home.

But now, everything has changed. We are in a different church every week (often every service), and while many of those churches have been friendly and inviting, they weren’t my church. Because of our schedule, I have little time to work on my books and videos. I am still writing my daily devotions, but the number of unsubscribes and unfollows over the past few months causes me to question if I should even bother. My days consist of housework, paperwork, and schedules, and frankly, I’m bored. There’s more to accomplish than I can get done, but none of it is bringing meaning to my life or helping me to feel like I’m bringing meaning to the lives of others. It’s not that life is terrible. It’s just not what I imagined it would be. I’m out of my comfort zone, and my unease has opened the door to many spiritual attacks from the enemy.

You would be amazed at the junk Satan has been telling me. And unlike his usual tactic of whispering his lies in my ear, this time, he’s downright yelling at me.

“Nothing you do matters. You’re worthless.”

“You are unloved and unappreciated.”

“You are making so little of an impact on the world right now that no one would even notice if you were to disappear.”

“You’ve tried for years, and look where’s it’s gotten you. Face it; you’d be better off to quit while you’re ahead.”

“If God were calling you to the mission field, do you really think you’d be so miserable? That doesn’t sound very loving of you or your Father.”

I thought I was fighting off the lies fairly well until I had a complete meltdown this weekend (and I’m not talking about the snow and sleet). Suddenly, all the lies came crashing into my soul at once, and my calm facade crumbled. I couldn’t put on a happy face anymore, and I sobbed like I haven’t sobbed in years. Hopelessness and helplessness oozed out of me with every tear as I realized I hadn’t been dealing with the lies of the enemy. I had merely been sweeping them under the rug—ignoring them in the hopes they would go away. But they didn’t. And while under the rug, they had turned my heart bitter and my attitude sour. I was suddenly at the point where I could understand if no one else wanted to be around me because I didn’t want to be around myself.

And now, here I am. Spent. Broken. Discouraged. But somehow better. I’m thankful God allowed my attempts to run from the enemy’s lies to unravel and opened my eyes to the truths of His Word. I’m relieved (and a bit stuffy) after crying out all the frustration that had been festering in my heart and mind. It’s almost as if a wall between the Lord and me has been torn down, and I can finally see Him again, reach Him again.

At the same time, I feel like the baby bear in a video I recently saw on social media. The mama bear climbed a steep, snow-covered slope, and the baby followed in her wake. But time after time, the little one stumbled and slid down the hill, losing ground. At one point, the poor thing slipped so far down, he descended past the point where the two bears had begun their ascent. Determined, he started again, retracing the steps he had previously taken until he finally reached his mama who had been anxiously looking on from the top of the slope.

Yep, I’m just like that baby bear. I have stumbled, slipped, and slid, and right now, it almost feels like I’m at the starting point of my Christian journey. I can sit, whining and complaining about how I should be further along, or I can keep climbing. It worked for the baby bear, and I have an advantage. While his poor mother couldn’t do anything but watch helplessly from above, my heavenly Father can help me climb. He will give me the strength I need for every step of the journey, even those residing outside my comfort zone.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.
— Psalm 37:23-24

Covering New Ground

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As I studied for my Sunday School lesson, I felt both excited and sad. Excited that my ladies’ Sunday School class was finally going to complete our Wilderness Wanderings series and reach the Promised Land. Sad that it was the last class for me with my ladies because Jason and I will be hitting the deputation trail, which means we’ll be in and out of a lot of different churches over the next several months. I know some may view giving up a class as a blessing or a reprieve, but words cannot describe how much I love teaching God’s Word. I get excited about Sunday School, and I will miss being there each week with my precious ladies.

Okay, moving on before I get all blubbery. . . again. One of the main things I love about teaching is the learning process I have to go through first. When I dig into God’s Word to prepare my lessons, He never fails to open my eyes to such beautiful truths, and usually, the lesson is something I need to hear. This past week’s teaching was no different. As I studied to cram about four weeks worth of lessons into one so we could get out of the wilderness, I came across a verse that was exactly what my heart needed to take in.

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 3:4

As the children of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan River, Joshua gave them the orders the Lord had given him. The priests, carrying the ark before the people, would make their way down to the river, step into the raging waters, and stand there while all the people crossed. Miraculously, when the priests stood still in the river, God caused the flow of the water to cease WAY upstream and gather in a heap. Meanwhile, the rest of the water either flowed away or simply vanished because the Bible says the people walked across on dry ground, just as they had done with the Red Sea.

But notice the instructions to the people given in verse 4. They were to leave a space between them and the priests carrying the ark of 2,000 cubits. If you do the math, you’ll see that’s a distance of over half a mile. That’s a big gap!!! But there was a reason for that distance. “That ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.”

God didn’t want the people rushing ahead because they thought they knew what to expect. After all, their parents had told them how God parted the Red Sea, so in their reasoning, God would do the same thing the same way here. But He didn’t. He had another plan, a different way. And He wanted them to understand how much they needed to wait. Stand back and watch. Watch for direction. Wait for guidance. Don’t just jump ahead thinking you know what to do and how to do it because this is all new territory.

Oh, how that blessed my heart this week. I don’t know about you, but right now, Jason and I are covering new ground. We haven’t passed this way before. We’ve spoken with other missionaries who have, and of course, everyone has their ideas and opinion on what works best and how it’s supposed to be done. And that’s fine. In fact, we have our own thoughts about how we want to work on this new path. But God graciously reminded me to be careful that we don’t rush ahead thinking we have it all figured out. Advice and opinions from those who have come before us are great. The Bible has much to say about good counsel. But, in the end, we need to wait on God and follow His guidance. We need to step far enough back from our own ideas that we can see what God has for us. This is new territory to us, but it’s not to God.

My friend, whatever you’re facing today, I encourage you to step far enough back from the problem, the situation, and your plans that you can see what God wants you to do. Wait for His guidance. Don’t rush ahead of Him thinking you have it all worked out. That always leads to trouble. Waiting is hard, but finding yourself in heartache because you rushed ahead of God is worse. Put some space between you and your issue and close the gap between you and God. Life will be better that way, and you’ll reach your destination, just as the children of Israel did.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
— Proverbs 3:5-8

Our Burden for Wales

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It's official!  We have been accepted by the mission board at Macedonia World Baptist Missions.  The next step is to attend a two-day orientation in a couple of weeks, and after that, our deputation begins.  That being the case, I wanted to share with you our burden for the people of Wales so you can have a better idea of the need and how to pray for us over the coming months and years.

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Wales is a beautiful country filled with glorious mountains, spectacular coasts, crystal rivers, and more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world.  The countryside is vast, diverse, and heavily populated by sheep.  Overall, the people are kind and caring.  Though the residents are proud of their history and culture, there remains little trace of the great revival that took place within its borders in the early 1900s.  The latest statistics show only 5% of the population attend church, and that figure includes all denominations.  In the past ten years alone, over 100 Anglican churches have closed their doors, and chapels belonging to other denominations are shutting down at a rate of one per week.  Many of the Baptist chapels still in operation boast a weekly attendance of 15 or less.  Due to the cost of upkeep and lack of attendance, chapels are being sold and converted into homes, businesses, and even pubs, forcing the congregations to rent space in a community hall for Sunday services.  A lot of pastors and missionaries literally pack and unpack their church supplies such as Bibles, hymnals, and such every week and pray for an attendance to make the effort worthwhile.

To use the words of another concerned Christian, the pews of the churches and chapels in Wales are not groaning under the weight of worshippers.  It's such a sad state as many of the older members can remember the days when the buildings were so crowded, they were forced to set up chairs in the aisles.  Now, what few church buildings remain are near empty, and those who are struggling to keep them alive are growing weary.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."  That is what's happening in Wales.  The people have lost their vision of God, and the workers are losing hope of ever reaching them.  The Welsh community is not rejecting the gospel out of ignorance but rather indifference.  They simply do not care.  In a land whose history includes legends and fables, they dismiss the Bible's teachings as nothing more than fairy tales.  When confronted with the reality of hell, they shrug their shoulders and say, "Whatever!"  Their hearts and minds need to be opened, and we pray the Lord will use us as instruments to open their eyes to their spiritual need.

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Will you help us?  We need your prayers and financial support to make it over to Wales and begin working with another missionary couple (Ronnie and Tennille Downey) who have been sowing the seeds there for over twenty years.  They need the help, and we need the guidance, so the way we see it, it's a match made in Heaven.  But we have to get there first.  Over the next few months or years (however long it takes), we will be traveling to churches across the country to present our mission and to ask for monthly financial support.  You can see a list of present and upcoming expenses on our website.  This will give you an idea how to pray for us, and if God so leads, to offer us financial support.

Individuals, as well as churches, are invited to donate funds toward the work.  All the information for doing so can be found on our website.  If you are a pastor and would like to have us come to your church to present our ministry, please contact us.  If you are a member of a church and think your pastor might enjoy hearing about our ministry, please speak to him on our behalf.  Since we will begin with part-time deputation (meaning we will still work our day jobs to pay our bills), we plan to begin with local churches and branch out from there. We have already received an invitation from as far away as Texas, so the Lord is working.  We would love to share our burden with you and your church family as well.

For those who can't give, we understand, but we do ask that you pray for us regularly.  Pray for our financial needs to be met.  Pray for our health and safety as we work during the week and travel on the weekends.  Pray for guidance as we strive to follow the Lord's leading.  Pray for dear Barnabas as he adjusts to the new "routine."  And, of course, pray for the people of Wales and for the many faithful servants who are actively trying to reach them.

We love you all and cannot thank you enough for your faithful friendship.  May God bless you richly!

Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.
— James Hudson Taylor