A Heart Transformed

I had dreams once. I had dreams of our first time on the mission field and what that would look like. I have spent 9 years praying that the Lord would send us to the nations for Him. And now He is and it’s not at all what I expected it to look like. Expectations are dangerous and I’m learning the difficult way just how dangerous they are.

It was sitting in an orphanage of 500 orphans that I found Jesus. I was in college and had never once thought I would travel internationally. Mission work was not on my radar at all! I remember sitting among the precious ones – children who had their innocent eyes glossed over with reality as they watched disease and crime steal their parents. Children who have been rescued from a life of prostitution, but not without tasting the horror of it first. Children with Aids and children who are forgotten. Children who are cast aside and who are dirty. Children who had been left at the city dump to die and rot on the hills of burning garbage that is home to the poorest of the poor. I have stood in that city dump. I have walked by dead carcases of animals and I have had so many flies land on my face that swatting them does nothing. I have watched children bend down and eat trash. eat trash. I have extended a hand to a woman sitting on the rubbish and desperately pleaded with the Lord on her behalf. My heart shatters when I think about this place and yet I long to go back. It was disgusting and it was inspiring. I felt alive and I saw Jesus as I took one little boy’s brown face in my hands and told him I loved him. I meant every word, for when we love Jesus, He breaks our hearts for what breaks His.

These children are beautiful to me and they are His beloved ones.

I left that country desperate to return. I have prayed for 9 years “Send me, God. I’ll go anywhere and do anything” with that very orphanage in the forefront of my mind. Do you see what’s wrong with what I’m describing? It was only recently that I realized that while I was telling God that I would go anywhere, I had sub-Saharan Africa on my mind. I expected God to send me there – I’ve had both parents die, so it only makes sense for me to devote my life to orphans, right? Then I got married to a wonderfully God-fearing man, and that man does not share the same yearning for the country I so love. I pray for the Lord to speak to my husband and to lead him, but you know what must accompany that prayer of mine? A heart that is ready to follow and submit to my husband as he hears God.

We are not going where I ever imagined and I’ll be honest that it’s hard. From the very beginning I haven’t felt that excited about the people we will be ministering to, but that all changed yesterday. Truly changed. Last week I started really questioning our call to these people, and my husband and I were encouraged to spend several days praying. We were told that our seeking would either confirm our calling to these people or redirect us to where we should be going. We know with a certainty that we are called to missions so we spent the weekend asking the Lord to show us which way to go. As the days passed, Husband’s passion for the people we are assigned to, only increased! I was still struggling…

So many dreams of mine have been taken away and so many loved ones have died. As my husband and I were talking I told him that I just can’t bare laying Africa down too. Jesus is calling me to yet another loss. Then came Monday and everything changed!

I woke up early and for some strange reason thought “I wonder if there are honor killings in the country we’ll be moving to soon?” I looked it up on the internet and could not believe what I found out! Not only do they happen on a regular basis in the very city we’ll be moving to, but in order to protect the honor killers from going to jail, “honor suicides” have become the norm. Yes, teenage girls are locked in a room and told to kill themselves in order to clear their family of shame. The crime? Something as trivial (according to our culture) as looking at a boy or texting him. I was shocked and memories came flooding back of my dad’s death and the depth of pain and shame that suicide inflicts. I have felt shame and I have felt loss. I am desperate for these girls to know Freedom. Jesus took our shame when He died on the cross…

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” ~Isaiah 53:3-6

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” ~Psalm 34:5

We left our house and headed for class. Our teacher taught us about cultures and spent considerable time talking about honor and shame in the Muslim culture. He then mentioned that shame is such a big deal that suicides happen. As I sat there, the Lord again nudged my heart towards all the darkness and murder that is going on in the country we are moving to. While my heart mourned my dad all over again, I rejoiced that Jesus has taken all the shame. Jesus is hope and Jesus is life! These families do not understand this freedom, and I got a glimpse at the possibilities of the Lord using my testimony as a light to our people. What if a father gets saved, saving his daughter’s lives as a result? I can see the domino effect and it’s beautiful. As my dreams and plans shifted, the loss was seen as an honor. What an honor to be called by God. My prayer is that my flesh would not stand in the way of me fulfilling my Kingdom purpose. This is a miraculous step for me and this is evidence of a heart transformed.

“No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.” ~John 15:13, AMP

Just then my very own words echoed in my mind: “Jesus is calling me to yet another loss”

And I imagined a young woman who had been threatened by her family and who has come to faith in Jesus and whose only option is to flee. This woman would know joyful sorrow. She would be called to loss as she fled her family and ran for safety. Oh Lord, You chose to give me this story, and I want nothing more than for it to be used for Your glory!

Yes I will always love African orphans, and who knows, the Lord may very well weave Africa back into our story down the road. Today, passion has been awakened and an excitement fills my heart. I have gotten just a glimpse of why the Lord may be calling us to these people. I am committed to praying for them, because I know that as I pray for them, the Lord will move mightily among them and draw my heart to His ministry there. He has not called me to a people I initially loved, but to a people that He has always loved.

There is always joy in the loss of dreams when they are surrendered to the Lord and He fills your heart with His dreams! My expectations of how this would all look haven’t happened, but God has nursed my disappointed spirit back to health and given me a new vision. He has shown me that what I can expect is for Him to always be loving and for Him to never leave me. I have been sweetly broken, sharpened, and beautifully mended. May He be magnified in every step of this process!

This afternoon, our family went for a walk and ended up in a place where I saw God.

IMG_0249editweb

IMG_0257editwebWe found this little area of land where the grass was green, the sun was shining, and wild flowers painted the landscape with splashes of purple, white, and yellow. I sat in the grass and saw Him everywhere I looked. His beauty was all around me and was inspiring. All I could do was thank Him for how He continues to transform my heart. As I laid back and closed my eyes, I could hear the birds and feel the cool spring breeze on my face. Kids giggled and picked flowers and I felt wild and free. I took my shoes off and felt the grass poke between my toes. I know God sees me and I know God hears me. The past 2 weeks have been full of challenges and adjustments and of the laying down of my plans, but I feel like I’m finally settling into life here!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for our family! We are all doing great and everyone is finally sleeping through the night! We are making friendships that will last a lifetime and we are learning so much that will prepare us to share the gospel in our future home! We appreciate your continued prayers!! He is so faithful!

My view while laying down

My view while laying down

My imprint in the grass

My imprint in the grass

My view of the sky while laying down

My view of the sky while laying down

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
~Isaiah 55:8-9

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