Friday, October 26, 2018

I will remember...again

It's 16 days before we board a flight with our last remaining things and fly back home to America. This flight is profoundly different that all other flights before it. This time ------ we're going home.

Going home doesn't mean we stop working. It doesn't mean we're finished. Retirement isn't a word in our personal vocabulary. So what does it mean?

It means our borders are expanding in a new direction. One that will let us be present for family and friends as well as be more available for those needing renewal and rebooting. We're so thankful to know we already have 3 missionary couples lined up for soul-care beginning in December. Makes my heart gush.
Imagine it.
5 ½ years ago my eyes could not stop leaking......... moving to the mission field was no small thing. It opened flood gates of tears.
Now 5 ½ years later my heart is gushing over the fullness of all that has taken place and all that is still to come. I know much is ahead. How can I be so sure? Because I also know that what has happened these last few years did not come as a result of me. It came from the One who is ever able; the One who knows what is needed and can deliver with perfection. Without a doubt ---- HE still knows the way forward and there's peace that He is writing the script.

I'm doing the steady work of processing it all out carefully. That's my part. I'm not trying to lean into the GOD-part. His part is huge.

Mine is simply this:                               Pray, listen, remember,
prepare, focus, respond,
Praise Him!

It's my heart's desire (and my job under Him) to encourage. This I know. Oh what peace comes in just knowing.
Encourage the dear Kenyan's through teaching truth and fostering healthy upward growth.
Encourage girls who aren't quite sure why they were born and what the world says to them.
Encourage ladies who have been wounded but they still want to love others and live loved.
Encourage couples who are brave enough to say “Yes” to each other and the path of being His servants in hard places.
Encourage parents to help their children grow-up-in-God, because they will face a hard world on their own someday.
Encourage through writing..... for those who want it on pages.

My heart is gushing for sure. It's intimidating, but in a good way. Years ago it would have doubled me over and sent me to a corner. But oh, i've been taught so much in the midst of flames that burn off what's fluffy and soft. There's more to learn (there'll always be more to learn). Still i'm so thankful for the hard courses the Teacher has guided me through thus far.

Today i'm able to click pause for a few hours and remember. Glance again at what is my part:
Pray, listen, remember, prepare, focus, respond, praise Him!
I wish I could show it in the circle/cycle way it rests inside me. It's basically a wheel image. Where “praise Him” appears to be at the end, it's actually not. It's always followed by “pray”. It is ever on repeat. It speaks of constant movement even if i'm sitting still. It's an internal motion that's good.

To pray is to acknowledge, “I need You Lord! (in everything), and so i'm coming to you over all things.”
To listen is the still that's needed inside and outside, the proving that “it's not my activity that makes things happen rightly, it will be Your guidance that leads me forward”. It requires self-control and heart-ears-opened. It's shutting out the noise of world and self, and connecting to the wonder of that still-small-voice. It's the whisper of the faithful One inside us.
To remember is the faith building part. It's the living-out of Psalm 77:11-12, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your might deeds.” Remembering the parting and closing of the Red Sea... remembering the burning bush moment... remembering a baby born to a virgin destined for a cross... remembering the veil torn from top to bottom... remembering that a donkey spoke (and even he could speak truth)... remembering an ark and a rainbow and an empty tomb. Remembering the touch of His robe brought her healing... There's so much to remember that builds faith. And I also remember all He has done in my personal life. I remember who I was, who I am still capable of being, and who He invites me to be in His hands. I remember the dark nights i've pleaded with Him and the sureness of the coming sunrise. I remember the innumerable times there has been no way forward unless He does what only He is able to do ----- and He does it. I remember the moments I knew “death” was in front of me, and He stepped between us. I remember and it breathes courage in. Remembering is also a quiet, still time before the good One. Oh the value of being still with Him.

I'm remembering, as I prepare for these 16 days ahead. I'm remembering His faithfulness over these past 5 ½ years.
I'll never be able to share it all. It's a miracle really.
I'm moving back home, but i'm ever-changed.
Steve and I have 16 more sleeps on this side of the world before we board a plane (on my birthday no less) and feel again the sensation of a lift-off that others on the plane won't be feeling. And mostly all I can do in moments like that is sit in quiet amazement.

I look at my journal entries, going all the way back to 16 days before we left home and felt the lift-off that would carry us to life in Kenya. I remember well those days and I want to go back and hug that lady who penned out her heart. She was leaning into the wind of obedience and giving it all she had. But good-grief, she was so aware of her sorrow and need. She was honest with ink. Imagine it. She knew she was obeying the One who made her, yet she still felt profoundly weak. Think of a person preparing to run a triathlon who's also hooked up to IV fluids. I remember how i'd cry out to God saying, “You do know YOU are the One who has to do this. You are aware that I can not do this. You realize this is all YOU, right Lord?” (It's in my journal.... it was real.) And He again was faithful.
16 days before we departed for Kenya, I was helping my daughter and sister make pretty little pink and brown burlap flowers for Maggie's wedding which would take place 5 days before we departed. Sitting at my dear sister's dining room table we laughed and worked (and sometimes cried) out all the details of planning a wedding and moving to Kenya. It was a lovely time. It was a gut-wrenching time. And now I sit 16 days before departing from Kenya and flying back home.... 10 days of intense teaching is complete (10 more teaching days will begin next week), final exam given this morning, we'll go visit a woefully sick little girl today and carry desperately needed things to her and her family in a slum nearby. If we had never come, we would have missed so much that is in His heart.

And --- we'll return home changed.
We've seen and smelled and heard and felt much that could never let a person stay the same.
I've been held in the arms of strong Kenyan women who have scars. I thought I was suppose to hold them in my arms..... but they were so quick to hold me. I've seen strong American women care so deeply for them and for me, and do the best they could to reach for us all. The flow of His heart through them, it's overwhelmed me body and soul. I've had Kenyan ladies inspire me and American ladies compel me forward. I've watched Kenyan girls flounder in the grip of cruelty, and found courage to enter the arena with them. They don't necessarily want to be “rescued”, they really just want to be able to believe they are loved and they can rise above. THAT is a miracle to see.
Heaven is the place of rescue.
Heaven will come for everyone who carries Christ inside them.
Facing the realness of a hard world makes us know --- we can not rescue anyone really. But we can carry His love to them. It's no small thing. It's the right way.
Love God – Love others.

It's the stepping stones that lead to the moment of relief. The moment of release. The moment when we will, in Christ, step out of this broken world and into His HOME. That's the place of rescue.
But that can only happen --- true “rescue” can only come ---- after HIS LOVE has entered in and they are able to see that nothing can separate them from His love. WE CAN rise above whatever surrounds us because HE HAS entered into that place with us.

It is in the remembering, we are compelled to prepare (for what is next)...... to focus (on that assignment)........respond (in the way He guides)....... and praise Him again and again, because we know it's all His.

His journey (being lived out in us).
His plan (being worked out through us).
His heart (being guided in our own).
And His love (that brings the Light).

Without His love --- darkness overwhelms. Mansion or slum, in wealth or poverty --- without the entrance of His love, darkness keeps the light shut out.

I've learned so much (in a hard classroom) these 5 ½ years. Perhaps, this reality is at the top of the long list. It's been learned at a deeper place found only in the guts of a heart that's been broken and restored.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.............”(1 Cor. 13:1-2)

This restored heart is gushing over the joy of what's ahead.
HE authors it all. 
Aren't we all so thankful for that?

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Camino De Santiago - Tiny and Weak works for HIM

How can He possibly be so attentive and caring? While He sits enthroned in the heavenlies, is praised without end by creation, commands the angel armies ----- He still gives focused care to His soul-carrying little ones. Little ones....... that's us friend.


It seems the older I get the better i'm able to grasp just how infinitely tiny I am. So little. When we stand beside the great oceans, we feel our smallness (and don't we love that feeling). When we look at the massive size of the mountains, we know. We are specs in a massive universe.

The Camino De Santiago is a path often called The Way of St. James. It stretches from the western corner of France all the way across the country of Spain ending at the far western town of Fisterra. Ages ago most people believed Fisterra, Spain to the the edge of the world. They thought if you sailed past Fisterra's immense ocean horizon, you would fall off the world. Remembering history class helps us put it in place. Columbus believed the world was round while most everyone else thought it to be flat. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Steve and I have just completed the 29 day journey of biking (and on the biggest hills, walking) the Camino De Santiago. I've never felt so tiny and needy in all my life. Everyday we prayed as the sun came up, literally saying, “Father we need you again. We're so needy of You.” Our fifty-something- selves felt overwhelmed at the daily task of biking another 20+ miles day after day after day. Muscles we didn't remember we had came alive again ----- and they ached as they woke up. It was a struggle to put away the wish for comfortable and familiar. But for almost 2 decades we had wanted to travel this path the apostle James had carved out on his missionary journey to a very pagan people. The goodness of God and the teaching of Jesus had never crossed those huge mountains and flat plains. All they had were other lesser gods, created by people in an effort to reach for something greater. When James arrived, they had never heard the Truth, they did not know the Way, they had no hope for the future. To walk (bike) that ancient path was an experience I will likely spend the rest of my days processing.

It is the "smallest" i've ever felt. It was right.

Every morning we asked for His help. We knew we couldn't cover the ground in front of us if He did not go before us. Every evening we asked for His help. We knew we wouldn't find a place to lay our heads if He didn't provide. Every night we asked for His help. We knew our sleep would only come if He gave us the gift of rest. We knew we could not do the Camino if God did not do it through us.

I looked at other pilgrims, the term used for everyone traversing the Way, and wondered if they too knew their inability, or was it just me that felt so profoundly unable? At least 2 dozen times I wanted to turn in my mountain bike and get a bus to the airport. Not kidding. But inside me there was this urging, like an invitation, “Come, do this with Me”. It was yet another experience of knowing that if I did not do this, I would have to answer for it when I stood before Him on that great judgement day. So I talked long with the Father. We talked through all the reasons why I wanted to give up. He spoke so clearly to my heart. Here's a sampling of some of our talks during the 500+ miles I peddled across Spain.

Me: Now God, you know there are about a hundred other things I need to be doing right now...
Abba: None of those things will please me as much as you spending these miles with me.

Me: But God, don't you think people are going to think i'm indulging in a month long sabbatical?
Abba: If they do, that's between me and them. Focus on what I think donna. I'm your Defender.

Me: But God, what about our wonderful supporters? People who give so generously every month so we can obey Your call and serve others?
Abba: Those supporters give because I, God, stir their hearts to do so. Their support is about Me and what I'm doing through you, it's not about you and what you think you're doing for Me. They are giving to Me ----- not you.

Me: But what if we get hurt doing this Lord? You know there are so many things that could mess-us-up on this journey...
Abba: Do you trust me or not?

Me: I want to do this Abba, I really do. But i'd rather have a bunch of friends with us. It would feel so much safer and we'd all have so much fun.
Abba: I'm jealous for you.

Me: Will you use this journey?
Abba: I already am.

Me: Did James know all the ways you would use his obedience?
Abba: He didn't know then. He knows now.

Me: Is it right that I feel so immensely small and useless?
Abba: I've been waiting patiently for you to feel this way. I can use a tiny daughter.

And so it went, on and on, day after day. I'd speak out my heart (no hiding allowed), and He would respond. Scripture flooded my mind. I'd cry and the wind would dry my cheeks. He'd guide the direction of my eyes to notice the little things that He never misses; things He adores. The old couple, each with a cane, walking slowly holding hands. The bird that flew beside me stopping on fence posts to wait for me to catch up and as I passed it would sing so loudly. 

The millions of dandelions e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Over and over again I'd be walking my bike up a mountain (cause this little-girl can NOT pedal straight up), looking down (so the sweat wouldn't keep sliding into my eyes) and there would be another bright dandelion, smiling up at me. The times the wind was at my back, almost as if there were wings pushing me onward. The times the wind was in my face, pushing the pesky flies away. Do you know how hard it is to bike uphill with flies attacking your eyes and nose?... maybe you do. I didn't. I do now. But when strong winds come, flies can't stay. (there's another whole blog in that sentence)
Every thought i've had about the transitioning from Kenya back to home in the States, well, we sorted it out on that long bike ride.
Every hurt i've wrestled with while living in Kenya........ we set right and laid down at the foot of the cross.
Every concern i've had about “are You sure about this change in ministry?”, I cried it out to Him and He reassured me again that, it's His, not mine. His words to my heart were, “Well of course you feel unsure, since it's not your idea, not your plan, and you know you can't do it.
It's mine, my plan, and I will do it. You just obey me daughter...”.

And the Savior soothes the soul He knows, and strengthens the weak knees He made.

Imagine it..... He doesn't despise our weakness. He glows IN IT.

This morning this tiny-Light-carrier sat with His words again. Steve brought my morning cup of wake-up and read these Oswald Chambers words to me. And these are the words we ruminated over together.

~from October 12 – My Utmost for His Highest

Enoch walked with God...” Genesis 5:24 (imagine our hearts, we just finish a 532 mile journey and this scripture preaches to us more than ever before)

“The true rest of a person's spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person's worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him --- it means getting your second wind spiritually. In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. The individual person is merged into a personal oneness with God, and God's stride and His power alone are exhibited.
It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. It was said of Jesus – “He will not fail nor be discouraged...” (Isaiah 42:4) because He never worked from His own individual standpoint, but always worked from the standpoint of His Father. And we must learn to do the same. Spiritual truth is learned through the atmosphere that surrounds us, not through intellectual reasoning. It is God's Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible. Getting into God's stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don't give up because the pain is intense right now--- get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.

Oh dear one, along The Way these words lived. If “i” thought I could do anything (within my human self), it became almost laughable at how quickly the impossible-wall overwhelmed me. But if I kept my internal and external focus on the pace of my Father walking beside me, before I could even grasp the size of the mountain in front of me, it would be behind me. I felt almost giddy over the sense of being carried.
Even though my feet took every step or pedaled every inch ----- so often at day's end I wondered if i'd actually done it.

And I knew --- we were traveling at His pace. My job was to show up, be honest with Him, and then l-i-s-t-e-n. Now then, it's ok if you might be thinking i'm a bit wacky. I'd likely agree with you. But still --- I want you to have this, to know this, to journey far with the One who adores you completely (battle-scars and all, imperfections wash away beside Him). To travel the distance of your numbered days with the One who wants to carry you. You probably won't need to walk across a country, or bike to the sea. You can journey the distance right where you are. But for sure, you'll have to put sole to soil and press yourself to obey ------ and then it'll come to you too. The joy of watching the Holy Words come alive ---- when you see it happen, when, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” “...He rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.” “Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord... He is your shield and helper (your Ezer).” ~from Deuteronomy 31:8, 33:26-29

There's so much more to share and in time, at the right pace, the pace of the One i've settled down into. I hope i'm able to put it rightly in words that can honor Him and encourage you. In the mean time, this tiny-daughter is moving forward, peaceful in front of the mountain, secure on the shoreline of mighty waters. She knows the One who's in charge. His robes have become her blanket.

And step......... step.......... step.........