Redento Raffinato

I was one among many women who stood together, united by Christ, and worshiped the Lord. It was one of my very favorite times of the year – the annual ladies’ retreat that is always held at a secluded wilderness center, away from the busy lives we normally live. It just doesn’t get any better than a couple of days with your best girlfriends, great food, amazing lessons, powerful worship, and being surrounded by God’s creation. I am always quick to sign up and count down the days until we hit the road for a relaxing weekend away. It’s seriously my favorite event of the entire year.

I’ll never forget last year. It was April….

Hundreds of women from all over the state were gathered together towards the end of the weekend. The band played on stage and voices swirled around me in worship. Something stopped me mid-song. I stopped singing and let my eyes wander around the room. Everywhere I looked I saw daughters of the King freely worshiping without a care in the world. But….but what about the ladies in countries where this type of retreat would be illegal? What about countries where if a woman were to convert and follow Jesus, she would be murdered by her father to protect her family’s honor? I stood there with my sisters in Jesus and my heart slowly ripped in half. Is this all I am meant for? Is this it? My husband and I were just barely in the process of applying to be missionaries and I didn’t know how, where, or when we would go, but I’ll never forget that exact moment and how the Lord started the reverse culture shock that has rocked my world. I knew as I looked around at my free sisters, that I have sisters out there that are lost and waiting to be added to the sheepfold. Sisters who are held captive by lies. Sisters that are in darkness. Sisters who are desperate. Sisters who have never felt loved. Sisters who are no less beautiful and precious because they walk covered and live oppressed. Sisters that haunt me. I could not escape the feeling that I was meant for something different than to continually feed myself spiritually at every church event advertised while my sisters are living in fear and dying without hope.

I had heard the Lord’s voice and I knew it was the Spirit that was opening my eyes. I knew as I left that retreat that I might not get to go back the next year, and so I mourned. That may sound silly, but to me it isn’t. Church culture as we know it in America is very different than church in other countries. Of course there are problems in the American church, but there are also a lot of things I really love about it. I, for one, learned how to be a disciple of Christ at my church back home. My life was changed there and so I am eternally grateful. I love dropping my kids off at the nursery and relaxing in the comfy chairs in the air conditioned sanctuary. I love contemporary worship on stage and I love the lighting effects. I love the women’s Bible study held every week, complete with free childcare and free breakfast, and I love the annual overnight ladies retreat in April. I could list a dozen other things I absolutely adore about my home church, but that is not my new reality. My new reality will be a very small gathering of believers (kids and adults all together) who meet in our home or in a coffee shop. We’ll sing songs in another language perhaps, and we’ll read the Bible. WE are the church, not the building that I so love back home. WE are the body of Christ and while we may have to be secretive about meeting for security, our church will be no less effective and pleasing to the Lord. So yes, I am still mourning the loss of church as I know it, but looking forward to doing church and BEING the church in whatever way the Lord leads.

I have been doing pretty well at laying all of this down at the feet of Christ….until I saw the video for this year’s retreat….

I saw the video and I went right back to wanting to go. I started looking at the things behind me instead of keeping my gaze firmly and securely fixed ahead on Jesus. The video is amazing and echos so many of the lessons He has taught me in my journey. I never opened up to my husband about the glass blowing video that I love. I just stuffed it deep down and just decided that I was missing out. My best friends get to go and I don’t. I sulked. I pouted. I felt cheated. But I never told anyone.

Weeks have passed since I saw that video, but it hasn’t left my mind. As we were driving all the way across the country last week to the training facility that is currently our home, the Lord decided to take me on a precious detour. I was super bored from riding in the car and trying my best to entertain kids.

Just then, Husband very randomly said “Hey there’s a glass blowing factory – wanna go?”

“YES!!!” I said

I’m sure he thought I was crazy. We were in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and I have never once spoken of my interest in glass blowing. He pulled up to the factory, which was even free to tour, and we went in. I could not believe the Lord had done this!!! As I was about to step foot inside the factory, I noticed what was so beautiful to me – the broken pieces. Oh I am one of those broken pieces. I am homesick and I am exhausted. I miss everyone and I am being refined, which isn’t always pleasant. I feel inadequate and ill-equipped for the work God has for me, and I’m mourning the loss of my American life. I am broken.

He sees my brokenness and He sees the beauty of what He has created me to be. He is tenderly changing everything about me so that I will shine brighter for His glory. He is slowly stripping me of everything that was my identity in my American life. He is stripping me of the daily contact I had with my support system back home, and He is stripping me of relying on other people to feed me spiritually. As this stripping is taking place, sometimes I willingly let go but sometimes I hold tight and fight. Like I said, this isn’t an easy process and like those piles of glass, I am broken.

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I may be broken, but I’m not broken without Hope. I’m broken, all the while knowing that He will never take His eye off me and He’ll never let me go. He is creating something brand new in me and I’m trusting confidently that it is going to be beautiful. I feel Him so very near and I know I’m in His presence. I know it will be all worth it and I am trusting that this new life of fully embracing His plans will be completely joy-filled. He sees and He loves and He refines, and the final outcome is glorious.

As I was turned to walk out of the glass factory, I saw something that took my breath away…

My eyes zeroed in on the words persecution and famine…

Yes there will be probably be persecution in my near future and I’ll probably find myself broken again – broken because it hurts and broken because the persecutors don’t know Jesus…

But then my eyes noticed the promise of God which is found in the book for Matthew…

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:31-34

I smiled and knew I wasn’t there by mistake. No matter what happens on the field, if I just always keep seeking Him, then I will have everything I need physically, emotionally, and spiritually! Last year at the retreat I had spent time learning and talking about the Lord, as well as missions, but one year later, I am on my way to the field. I am on my way to doing instead of just hearing and talking about. Instead of going back to the retreat this year and watching a video about glass blowing, the Lord took me to the actual factory to watch first hand. As I walked out of the factory and passed that beautiful reminder to seek first His Kingdom, I felt that the Lord saw me and is pleased with our obedience. God is calling me out of just staying in a place of always hearing about and talking about the gospel to a place of doing the gospel – to a place of living the gospel.

Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name!
Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits—
Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy;
~Psalm 103:1-4

Isaiah 48:10

Isaiah 48:10

So today I’m still one of those broken pieces on the ground, but beautifully broken with His redemptive hope filling my heart. He is allowing me to be broken, only to mend me into a living and breathing picture of redemptive elegance!

[God] has redeemed my life from going down to the pit [of destruction], and my life shall see the light!” ~Job 33:28, AMP

“My lips shall shout for joy when I sing praises to You, and my inner being, which You have redeemed.” ~Psalm 71:23

{I’m praying for all my sweet sisters to have a wonderfully refreshing time at the upcoming retreat!! Someone take notes and fill me in! xoxo!}

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