We Have Arrived

We did it, we packed our lives into 5 bags, shoved them onto a plane, flew on a just over 9 hour flight where we landed smelly, sweaty, and tired into a baking airport filled with people from so many different nations, beautiful people.

My husband, being the hero that he is, took on the task of communicating with our shuttle driver to our hotel. We were traveling with my Mother in-law and our friend, who is more like a sister, Kari. In total we had 10 x 50 lb bags with 8 carry on’s. Our bags were piled high on a cart while we waited to hear when our shuttle would arrive. People were scurrying all around us, speaking languages we couldn’t understand, women dressed with scarves on their heads and some in all black and all that you could see of them were their tiny hands and their hiding eyes peaking through the small sliver in their full garb. It was fascinating and overwhelming all at the same time. All Isaiah wanted to do was drive his “digger” around on the incredibly dirty airport floor where he also would occasionally lay down because it was tile and it was cool and he was very, very tired. Eli was passed out in his stroller, sleeping heavily and catching up on all that he missed on the plane ride over.

When our shuttle finally arrived the men and Mary piled all the bags into the small bus, we boarded our bus and as we drove stared out the windows looking at this big foreign city with wide eyes of little children (some of us in actuality being little children). I was tired and hot and really looking forward to getting into our hotel room.

We arrived at our hotel and they began to unload our bags on to the sidewalk that was right on the edge of a fairly busy one way cobble stone street. People were having to walk around us and all of our bags as they walked along the street and surprisingly none of them seemed to surprised by the pile of luggage sitting on the sidewalk. The manager of the hotel didn’t share their indifference though. He looked at Dalton and said “How many people, 4? I have to ask, how many years are you staying here? So many bags!” Dalton replied with, “We are staying a very long time, we have moved here!” Some of the other young men working at the hotel were pleased to hear that we were moving to their country.

The hotel was this narrow little placed nestled in between lots of shops. It had a spiral staircase that went up steep as if it were a lighthouse. It took probably about 30-40 minutes before our rooms were ready so we just sat there on the street with all of our bags. And then, when our rooms were ready, Dalton and a couple of the guys from the hotel carried each and every one of our 50 lb. bags up the stair case to the 4th floor. It may not seem very high, but I assure you, I was exhausted just carry Eli up those stairs. It was quite a workout.

Our room was very small with 3 beds crammed in and our bags protruding throughout the small space that we had. Some might say it was a tad claustrophobic. But it had air conditioning and a soft bed to laon and that was enough for me.

The location was smack dab in the middle of the city. After Isaiah and I took a nap we all went for a walk through the city and found some dinner. The city was beautiful, cobblestone roads, 800 year old architecture, big beautiful mosques that would be the equivalent of some of the beautiful old churches that you find in France or Italy. But what struck me the most was the people. Everywhere I looked, strikingly beautiful, warm, friendly, welcoming faces. The men LOVE our little ones. Always kissing their hands and pinching their cheeks and trying to pick them up and hold them if the boys would let them. So far, it’s the people that I love most. I haven’t a clue how to have a conversation with them or connect with them in a personal way, but that’s one thing I have patience for (it feels these days like patience is a rare commodity within both me and my children…sigh). It will come in time.

There is so much more that I could write about and will write about. This is just a small picture into our first day of arrival into this foreign land that has become our home. I hope it satisfies the curiosity of some of you who I know want all the details. More to come!

Power Perfected in Weakness

If I’m honest…right here…right now…I feel incredibly weak.

I came home expecting to find rest from the closing of our last season in New Zealand, reflection of the wonderful years we spent there, preparation for the season ahead. Things rarely look in real life the way we envision them in our heads.

The Lord has been kind to me these last few months, but it has looked so very different than I first expected.

You see, we are about to transition into a nation that has so much historic richness and darkness than any nation that I have ever lived in. A nation that has embraced a dark and ancient religion. We don’t speak the native tongue. We embrace a religion that is threatening to their beliefs and should they choose to follow, their lives. For lack of a better word, we are entering into an environment that is relatively intense.

So with that being said, the Lord has been kind to me during this season by exposing my weakness. Putting it on display for me to see how truly lost I am without Him. Some of you may look at those of us that are going and want to put us onto some kind of “hero” pedestal. Please don’t. The truth is, we are just like every other human being on the planet. We have aches and longing for comfort and satisfaction and entertainment. We get bored, angry, impatient, sad, annoyed, lazy, and sloppy. We find ourselves struggling – “not doing the things we want to do and instead doing the things we hate”. Just because we are getting on a plane in 3 ½ weeks does not exempt us from being human and having human weaknesses. They are there and they are raging, I assure you.

And it seems to me that the kindest thing that He could do for me this season was reveal to me how much I desperately need Him. To knock me off my high horse and remind me that He doesn’t need me to do a thing. If He wanted to, He could peal back the sky and flash His glory for every eye to see in the Middle East and He could do it without me so much as blinking my eyelids. It’s so very helpful to be reminded of that before I fly off on my jet plane thinking I’m going to save the world. How lucky the Middle East is to have me! Me with all my fine gifts and talents to offer them!

Oh how kind He is to remind me that man is but dust, and the nations…they’re but a drop in a bucket. How kind He is to remind me that The God who worketh all things surely needs no help and no helpers.”

I remember being put in my place on my internship at the Tauranga House of Prayer as I read “The Self-Sufficiency of God” chapter in A.W. Tozer’s book “Knowledge of the Holy”.

“Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his listeners, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.”

I don’t want to enter this precious Nation in whom the Lord desires and think that I somehow am going to turn their hearts towards Him. The thought of that just makes me sick. No, I go because He is BIG and POWERFUL and has in His perfect wisdom set it in place that when we open our mouths, even in our weakness and frailty, He releases power and we begin to see demons flee, sickness cursed and dried up and the most exciting of the three – souls being saved from eternal damnation and given life abundantly.

We go because obedience is better than sacrifice.

What we do wrong a lot is we elevate sacrifice higher than obedience. We say “Look at all they have given up! How selfless! How honorable! How noble!” and what we need to be saying is “Look at the One who gave it all! How selfless! How honorable! How noble! How holy! Let us follow the Lamb in the way that He has modeled for us and let us now pick up our cross and follow Him!” We are not doing anything that hasn’t been done tragically, beautifully and perfectly before. And it’s that very same event that empowers us, us who are riddled with selfishness, pride, and lust for the things of this world, to shake off the filth and embrace His righteousness that we might shine like stars in this wicked and depraved generation.

We’re simply following Him. He’s already done it for us. Paved the way before us. We’re just doing what He did. Nothing original – we’re copy cats. And there is no greater cat to copy then the Lion who became a Lamb.

Headed East

The time is drawing near. We have spent the last 4 months stateside and we are now 3 ½ weeks out from making our departure to the Mid. East.

I have a whole gamut of emotions running through me at present.

When we first arrived in the states, I was relieved. I was so glad to be under the safety of my (earthly) Father’s roof and the warmth of my Mother’s nest once again. To have babysitter’s on hand at any moment, another person planning and cooking meals for us, the convenience of American shopping and all that we need and more at our fingertips, the entertainment that is made available for big people and little people…it was like going to Disney World.

I have a new appreciation for America, we may be struggling in a lot of areas and have had our weaknesses put on display to the nations…but, there really is no place like America. It is a blessed nation that was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of immigrants from many different nations who longed for freedom, liberty, justice, independence and opportunity. I had the privilege of visiting Ellis Island just a couple of weeks ago and could still feel in the air the emotions of relief, excitement, expectation and desperation that filled the rooms and halls of that building when hundreds of thousands of people flooded in from that month long journey across the oceans into the land of promise. I was grateful for the men and women who risked their lives for the sake of the many that would come behind them, some of those many being my children and me. What an incredible history we have.

Right around the 3-month marker of being home my emotions began to transition from relief into restlessness. I still loved being close to my family but it was as if I was in the final trimester of a pregnancy. I was tired of being pregnant and ready to give birth and see this baby that I had been carrying for 8 months. Even though I knew it required excruciating pain, the possibility of trauma and disaster, a long recovery and months of exhaustion and delirium to follow…I was ready. I began to become uncomfortable in my current condition, in the way that your body begins to scream at you at the end of a pregnancy “I can’t carry this weight much longer, I can’t stretch much larger!”  I began to become antsy in my current environment, not having a space to call my own, not having any set routine with my children. It was time. And the Lord in His perfect leadership gently lead me to the place where I could actually say out loud “I am ready to go”.

Then we did it. We bought our tickets. The date was set. We were really, really, for real moving to the Mid. East. This would be the stage of your water breaking. Where longing and aching for this baby to be born turns into adrenaline, anxiety, excitement, apprehension about the things unknown – but there’s no turning back now, this baby is coming! We are really going to pack up our bags (again) put our little family of 4 on a plane on September 14th and make our way to a new nation that we will call our home. One where we still don’t know the language, have only read and heard about the culture, don’t know the smells, the sights, the warmth or chill of the air except for what we’ve imagined. And in a moment it will all be real and thus begins the rest of our lives.

On September 14th, we will board our flight to that beautiful nation in the East. And I feel perhaps a sliver of what our ancestors felt in the 1800’s as they sailed to this land of promise, except it’s not necessarily for my blood family that will come behind me in years to come…but it’s for another nation(s), another people(s) that is not my own that have yet to have the honor and privilege of hearing about the most beautiful Man that has ever walked the face of this earth. We are going so that these nations that we may touch could hear of Him and while we may not be offering them peace and prosperity in an earthly manner, we are offering it to their souls in an eternal manner. That they, and their children and their children’s children, may taste and see with their very own eyes the goodness of Him whose heart burns with affection towards them.

I may not feel for these people the same intensity that He does but this I know with all my heart…His wounds have paid MY ransom…and so have they theirs, and how will they know if no one tells them? He is far too beautiful to keep to myself.  The knowing of Him explodes into the telling of Him, the proclaiming of Him, the testifying of Him. And if His desire is truly that all that should come to know Him and that none should perish…well then how could I allow the preservation of my own life and the comforts of this world outweigh the desire of the One who was pierced for my transgressions? I cannot.

So, we go, broken, weak, frail, with very little to offer. We boast in our weakness that His strength might be put on display for all to see.

So, we go, afraid, excited, anxious, happy, naïve, leaning, trusting, hoping, clinging.

So, we go, for the joy set before us. 

I bind myself to thee…I bind myself to Thee

When I met Dalton and began to feel the stirrings of the Spirit upon my heart that he could be the man that I was going to marry I remember a day where we were taking a break during class and I watched the boys wrestle and play on the beautiful green grass of that school campus. As I was watching Dalton I remember this thought dropping into my mind or spirit or perhaps both…”What if he stays here forever? Would you still say yes?”

Now for this to make complete sense I have to give a little bit of context. I loved the House of Prayer and my spirit resonated with this new prayer movement that was beginning to emerge across the earth. I agreed with it and felt the significance of it. But…I didn’t necessarily feel like I completely fit in it. I was pretty much raised, as in from the day I was born again, in a “laboring” or “working” in the nations context. There was a place in my heart that burned for the nations and felt that I was made to interact and minister to broken, unsaved, lost people. So when the Lord asked me if saying yes to Dalton meant saying “yes” to something that didn’t necessarily make me feel like every part of my heart would be kept alive ministerially speaking, it was kind of a big deal.

I remember weighing the question out in my head while watching him. And then I asked him, “So, do you think you’ll be here forever? Like, until Jesus splits the sky?” And his answer was just as I suspected, “Yep, I’m committed to this and I’ll stay here until I die or He splits the sky.” He said it and I would be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little bit. I knew that if I said yes to marrying this man (which he hadn’t even come close to asking me at this point, in fact, I don’t even think he knew my name – long story – deserves its own post) I was saying “no” to things that I loved and thought would always be apart of my life, things that I thought defined who I was and that I would be saying “yes” not only to the love that was growing inside of me for this man but to all that he was made to do, all the passions of his heart, all the things and places and people that the Lord called him to. I felt the sting and yet there was something so attractive about his commitment. There was something so attractive about the dedication to believing so much in something that he would be able to say, at 20 years old, “I’m not afraid to say that this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.” There were plenty of 30 year old’s that I knew that weren’t able to put there roots down and commit so deeply to something. There was something stable about it, safe about it. Somehow the attraction of the maturity that he carried outweighed the sting of the sacrifice I would have to make. So, right there, on that grassy field under that beautiful blue sky, I said “yes”.

It’s important to point out, as I stated earlier, that Dalton hadn’t even come close to asking me to marry him at this point. We barely knew each other. You may be thinking, “But, he hasn’t even asked you anything?” or “He hasn’t given you even the slightest inclination that he is even interested in you, you crazy lunatic!” So, who was I saying yes to? Which brings me back to the initial asking of the question – who asked me? The Lord did and that’s who I answered. It wasn’t even about Dalton at the time, it wasn’t even about what we would do with the rest of our lives, but it was about my everlasting husband securing my trust in Him. Securing my trust in His ability to love me, care for me and lead me even when I was binding myself to an earthen vessel that would struggle with sin and was still being sanctified into the likeness of Christ just like I was. It was important that my trust was placed not in a man, but in the Lord’s ability to lead that man, guide that man and keep that man.

I didn’t know much about Dalton at the time and as the weeks would progress I would learn that he too had a heart for the nations. I would learn that he desired to see “laboring” and prayer no longer be separate entities but that they would be one expression just like it was in the early church. I would learn that there was a strong chance that he may not stay in New Zealand and within the context of a House of Prayer for all of his live long days. Of course learning all these things caused my heart to grow in excitement that maybe we really were a good match after all! And maybe I wouldn’t have to let go of as much as I thought I would have in the beginning!

But the Lord, He really is perfect in His leadership. Time went on, Dalton did in fact end up asking me if I would marry him, we did in fact get married and we did in fact begin a family together that is still in its growing stages. The Lord knew that the importance of that question that he asked me in that grassy field wasn’t about whether I was willing to stay in New Zealand or the House of Prayer forever, it wasn’t about whether I was willing to lay down things that make my heart come alive, it wasn’t about whether I trusted Dalton’s ability to make good decisions for my life – I mean, all of these things are important and legitimate and do carry their significance and in posts to come I will talk more about them. But ultimately, it was about me making the declaration in my heart that I trusted the Lord, my Good Shepherd, to care for me and lead me through all the twists and turns of life even in the context of marriage. I was nothing but excited about the idea of marriage back then – I ached for it – which was appropriate. But I was very naive to the hot refining fire I was about to enter into that would be constantly burning and purging me of all of my impurities. This fire that I was about to dive into head first. I had no idea the path of taking that passionate and immature love and maturing it and making it a strong tower that can not be shaken by any storm that may come our way.

Our husbands are many things to us, our provider, our carer, our love, our friend, our companion, our support, our safety and the list goes on and on and on. But we must always remember in the course of marriage, that they are only humans. They are not perfect nor will they ever be until we are face to face with our Maker. And we must remember that all the good things that they are for us in this life are merely a reflection of that which He is for us for eternity.

I guess I say all of this to communicate that I am convinced that the Lord has us bind ourselves to another human being that is altogether not like us, talks different, hears different, thinks different, eats different, plays different, etc…all so that we are given yet another opportunity to completely depend upon and trust in the Lord with every fiber of our beings. That in every moment that our husbands care for our hearts perfectly and we feel completely safe, secure and at rest within their covering we could rejoice in the perfect leadership of the Lord and His ability to take care of our hearts and sustain us through every season of the soul. And so that in every moment when our husbands makes a mistake and hurts our feelings and makes us feel vulnerable and uncertain we can cling to the perfect leadership of the Lord and His ability to take care of our hearts and sustain us through every season of the soul. We bind ourselves to our spouse and in doing so we, at a deeper level, bind ourselves to Him. Our confession at the altar is “I bind myself to thee (Dalton)…I bind myself to Thee (Lord of my life).”

He holds us together perfectly, He keeps us from falling, He is our strong tower that we run into and find safety, He is forever leading us, forever guiding us and forever caring for us and He is the One we will spend all of eternity with. He has given this wonderful gift called husbands to demonstrate and exemplify the love that He has for us in a practical and tangible way – but marriage is a moment – and He is forever. We must trust Him more than we trust our husbands and we must trust that His order of things, husbands leading their wives and children, is the perfect order of things. And when we feel uncomfortable and unsure of what comes our way we must first go to the Lord and ask Him to help our hearts.

That day I said yes, I was saying yes to the leadership of the Lord and I was confessing that I trusted Him. I have clung to that moment day after day, year after year, to keep me and sustain my heart when things begin to get hard in life. I trust in His ability to lead my heart…and when I don’t feel like I trust Him…I remember that day that I said “yes”.

“The Call”

THE INITIAL CALL:

When I was 18 years old I sat in my high school Algebra II class, I had just finished handing in my last math final of my high school career. As I sat down I felt the joy of the new season of life that was awaiting me. I felt the liberation of graduating not just from high school but also into “adulthood”. I sat down with a smile on my face and said in my heart “Lord, what shall we do next?” It was that moment that I felt within me the “call” or better yet the invitation to be a “laborer for Christ” predominately in an overseas context. At 18, I had many different ideas of what that actually meant. I remembered other “laborers” that would come and visit my church and share about their experiences – all I felt I received from them was that it was hard, uncomfortable and they themselves seemed a little odd to me. So when I felt the invitation to be a laborer myself, I was a little afraid. I didn’t want to live in a hut in the jungle and have to learn a new language and be lonely the rest of my life. How depressing.

While searching for the perfect front door into missions I came across an international organization and that ran a training course specializing in discipling and training laborers for the field. I read the curriculum, saw that there was an outreach phase and it sounded fascinating AND it was only 6 months. It was kind of perfect. I could go, do my hardcore cross cultural laboring stent, come home, go to college, get married, have children and grow old and die in Columbus, GA. It sounded like a dream and seemed to come into alignment with my current level of commitment to this “laborer for Christ” thing.

So, at 18 years old I hopped on a plane by myself, much to my mothers horror (I am the baby, and I really lived up to that title), flew the most outrageous route you could imagine to Australia and arrived a terrified and dehydrated little girl who called her mommy crying almost every day, possibly twice a day some days, for the first 2 weeks of the course.

When it came time to pick our outreach locations, I chose the most western one possible. I thought, “The Australian youth need to know Jesus too”. Which is a true statement, they do, but that’s not why I chose Australia. I chose Australia because I was afraid to go anywhere else.

My experience on my training course could take up an entire blog, seriously. But let’s just say that I was forever “ruined for the ordinary”. I finished that 6 months a very, very different person. The Lord gently and patiently lead my immature heart. Even in the midst of my discomfort and my obvious love for the things of this world that trumped my love for Him, He faithfully took my heart on the journey of maturity and in His perfect timing turned the corner to a deeper level of abandonment to Him.  That 6 months turned into almost 5 years serving as a laborer in Australia.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES:

At the end of my 5 year stent in Australia I felt the Lord gently guiding me to move on, that my season was finished and that there was a new chapter that I was about to enter. So, I packed my bags, said good bye to my friends who were like family to me and this incredible ministry that I loved dearly.  I flew home not having a clue what was next but feeling the safety and peace of resting in His leadership. It felt good.

I got home thinking that perhaps I would have a season in the states. I wanted that. I wanted to be near my family. I wanted to be in a familiar place that was comfortable. But, the Lord had different plans and more clearly than I had ever heard Him lead me before, He took me all the way back to the Southern Hemisphere 4 months later to the neighboring nation of Australia, New Zealand.

I was going to be involved with the establishment of a House of Prayer in a city called Tauranga. I was a part of a 6 month internship and again, I thought I would do my quick 6 month stent and be on my merry way. However, I met my husband, got married and that 6 months turned into 6 years. I now have 2 children and have been a part of this incredible community and have once again, been “transformed from one degree of glory to another”. My husband and I had so deeply commited ourselves to the work of the Lord here that we felt we would grow old here and see our children grow up here. We were applying for permanent residency here, we planned to be here for a very long time to come. We are a part of the leadership team at the House of Prayer and we absolutely love this ministry, these people, this place. It is so good it’s almost a dream.

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE:

In journeying with the Lord these past 11 years I have began to understand something. While “calling” is important and while the Lord really does call people to nations and people groups and puts an affection for these places and peoples in one’s heart – that’s not the p0int. It’s good, it’s important and it’s significant – but it’s not the point. Ultimately, He cares about my heart. He cares about what my heart loves the most. He knew that I had a love for comfort, safety, security and in His kindness and perfect leadership He gently lead me through a journey that would enable me to die to those things in a worldly sense and begin to embrace comfort, safety and security in Christ. I have had to continually say goodbye to things that I loved dearly and in many ways had begun to feel I had some sort of right to keep for the rest of my days. But He is so jealous for my heart. He doesn’t want to share my affections with another. He has brought me through circumstance after circumstance inviting me to surrender just a little bit more and fall into His grace and His embrace just a little bit more.

As we approach the beginning of our 7th year here in New Zealand, we have found ourselves, yet again, letting go of that which we love here on earth to embrace a love that is greater and far more deserving. The Lord has invited us to a deeper level of surrender and has invited us to sell our belongings, pack up what little we have left and take our family across the oceans to a foreign land speaking a foreign language to minister to a foreign people. It will be hard to say goodbye to New Zealand and this community that has become our family. But, there is something so alluring, so attractive, so liberating about letting go again and falling into His embrace and following our Shepherd wherever He leads. Above all, I want nothing more than to love Him with my whole heart. And whatever is required of me to do that, I don’t want to shriek back in fear, intimidation, discomfort or frustration in thinking that I have a right to anything in this life. I want to uninhibitedly give myself to Him and His leadings, that I might love Him with all that I have. So that at the end, when I see Him face to face, His declaration over me will be “This one has loved me well.”

I have decided to log some of the journey of my heart here in this blog. It won’t be consistently updated because I’m not necessarily doing it as a “dedicated blogger”. But it’s a journal so to speak, that I am making available to others that perhaps may be encouraging to a few who are also journeying with the Lord and this radical call of taking up our cross and following Him. It will be raw, with lots, I repeat LOTS of grammar and spelling errors. So if you’ve managed to find me or have just fallen upon this site, welcome to my journey, glad to have you. I pray that the Lord meets you here.