As I walked through what had been our home for 2 months, my heavy heart saw the emptiness left in the rooms that had been our refuge for 8 of the most influential weeks of our lives. As my eyes wandered around the now empty rooms, I realized how much these rooms had started to feel like “home” to me. It was in this small home that the Lord used His Word and God-ordained experiences as some sort of scalpel in the surgery transformation that has taken place deep within my soul. Much of myself – the parts of me that wanted to hold tightly to the things that I wanted, regardless of what the Lord wanted – were cut away. But the Lord, my Healer, stripped all that would hinder me from following completely, and then ever so tenderly mended and healed this heart that is His. Through the ups and downs of training, He was there and He was faithful.
There were days of sadness from leaving all that we knew behind and there were days of excitement as we learned more about the far away land that will be our home. There were moments of stress as we we were taught what to do if held captive, and there were moments of beautiful, hard trust – true trust – as scripture redirected fearful hearts of the unknown future to the known God. There were moments of heartache as we had our bubbles of unrealistic expectations popped and moments of clarity as we learned to seek God, and only God, for His all-satisfying fellowship and deeply moving love. There were moments of sharpened clarity and increased passion as the Lord revealed more of His plan for our family on the field. The months of training have been worth it….so very worth it….
We loaded up our car with our possessions and children, and headed down the road to a new chapter. As we drove through hours of rain, I watched the drops hit the window and roll down. Sunshine must be up ahead somewhere I kept thinking. Our children sat quietly in the back seat, enthralled by a movie on the iPad, and my husband drove us through gorgeous fog covered mountains. We had twenty-something hours of driving ahead of us, along with several stops along the way. Our first couple of nights were going to be spent at a lodge that had graciously been opened up to our family. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we gratefully accepted the free place to stay and eat! As we arrived at the lodge and drove through the gates, what I saw made my heart stand still. The sun was shining and the land was lush and green. The large house was surrounded by still water that was more beautiful than I can even describe. It was truly breathtaking and as I stared out the window and pondered the last two months, my mind kept wandering back to Psalm 23.
P S A L M 23 : 1-6
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
We rounded the path and pulled up to the lodge. One of our children said “is this Heaven?! This is like a DREAM!” My husband and I were all smiles. We couldn’t have agreed more! We are living the dream! As I stood on the front porch and allowed the beauty of God’s creation that was all around me soften my heart that was caught in a whirlwind of emotion, all that I had been taught in training and all that had been changed in me started to gel. I left training a very different person. My eyes had been opened to so much at a very rapid pace and the Lord knew that I would need some time to let everything sink in. He had provided a place of refuge for us….a place of rest that was so greatly needed. Persevering through two intense months was completely worth it and now, the Lord was allowing us to escape to a place that had no cell phone service and was tucked away in the beautiful mountains. My Shepherd brought me by still water and green meadows and there He started the restoration of my soul. I will never be able to put into words how thankful we are for the training we received, and it wasn’t until I was able to step away to the safe haven of the thick and beautiful forest all around me, that the Lord began to show me just how necessary the last 2 months had been.
I learned more of who He is and of the blessings that He freely gives me, His daughter. I walked away from training knowing that no matter what happens to me that His goodness and unfailing love will pursue me – will chase me – all the days of my life. I learned that no matter what happens to me, no one can control my mind and no one can steal my joy. I learned of persecution going on right now in the world, and I learned of amazing miracles that the Lord is doing…..and oh how I long to be part of it all!
As I wandered away from the house, I noticed flowers all around me. They were beautiful and grew wild and free. I sat down in the woods and ran my fingers over the soft petals. What beauty He creates and what a gift to be in a place of no distraction where I could enjoy the gifts that seem to usually go unnoticed. As I picked the first flower, and then the next, my fingers wove them together to make a crown.
“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; Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]!”
P S A L M 103 : 1-5
“Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither.”
1 C O R I N T H I A N S 9 : 25
“And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.”
1 P E T E R 5 : 4
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
2 T I M O T H Y 4 : 5-8
“Blessed (happy, to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.”
J A M E S 1 : 12
As I sat in a small field of wild flowers and wore a crown of His creation, I felt the warm sun shine down on me. I felt radiant. I am so thankful to have been chosen by the Lord to take the Good News of Jesus to ears that have never heard. I am so thankful that He has equipped my family for His work, and I am so thankful that He gives me the strength to persevere through these difficult months of transition. He grows me and He allows days of rest. He is my Shepherd and He will always provide for me everything that I need. There are days of joy and wonder and there are days of sorrow and struggle ahead of me. Right now, I am trying to balance the joy of seeing friends and family I had been missing while at training, and the sorrow of knowing that I am about to leave them all again for the next three years. So much is unknown to me, but even as I walk through times where I can’t see too far ahead of me, I know the Lord sees and He knows, and that’s all that really matters. I know God goes before me and will never leave me, and I know that through persevering, He crowns me with loving-kindness, tender mercy, eternal blessedness, never-ending glory, honor, righteousness, and the victor’s crown of life! He is my hope and glorifying Him is my goal. I thank Him for these weeks after training – weeks of rest and realizing just how ready we are to go. 10 more days until we leave!
I am ready and I am expectant….