The Latest from our Life
What has happened, what we are seeing, and what God has done.
Promises of Faithfulness
“Trust in Me for your family and for every need that is before you. Have I ever failed to provide for all that you lack? Now trust Me AGAIN and watch the miracle be released.” (The Passion Translation – I hear His whisper…emphasis added)
I felt my word for 2018 was “promises.”
Promises of FaithfulnessI did not exactly know what that would look like but as I reflect over the past 6 months I have seen how I have not only declared but experienced God’s promises, specifically His character of faithfulness. As you probably know, or can read from our previous blogs, our house did not sell in how we would have picked at the time, but the Lord, of course, had a plan…a great and perfect plan. If you would have asked me 6-8 months ago if God was faithful, I would have answered: “Oh yes, He is faithful.” But 2-3 months ago, I would have answered “uhhhh, mmmm…sure He is.”
I knew this in my head but God was getting this in my heart. Looking back at God’s perfect timing and the exact time he had us “run into” the future buyer at a place that had been changed the day before was all in His timing and the blessing our home will be to the next buyer and hopefully the hundreds of lives that enter impacted by God’s continued presence in this place is nothing but God’s character…His goodness, His faithfulness and His love for us in always having higher ways than we can see at the time. But don’t think that this was not a struggle…I cried many tears and had several talks with God about my frustrations and reminding Him that we needed to sell this house to get to Poland. But He did not forget and He didn’t need my reminders, but I know it delighted Him how I was seeking Him in a new way. I was diving into and declaring His word aloud, shouting out songs of praise and of His promises (“Yes and Amen” by Bethel was definitely on repeat), and seeking His heart because it was so much more to Him than just the house selling…He wanted my heart, He wanted to show me more of Him; whew, He is so good so good. God values our character over circumstances and as Toby Slough once stated, “We need to quit looking for how it is going to happen and just hang on that IT IS going to happen…God is not nearly concerned with where we are and our circumstances for He is far more concerned with who we are becoming…your deliverance is coming when you let God do what ONLY HE CAN DO.”
I had feelings of frustration, fear, worry and felt let down because I was trying to be in control and take matters in my hands so to speak which was driven by fear that God wouldn’t come through…but He has never failed and never will and I have a new confidence and heart deep understanding of His faithfulness that I know will be necessary for what’s to come in what He wants me to step into in the future for His Kingdom that I probably would not be able to do without understanding this part of who He is on a new level over the past 3-4 months. And even more, now, I want to dare greater, dream bigger and be carried deeper in His presence to see more of His Kingdom come to earth and lives be radically changed to truly know Him.
The Environment to Dream
1. You must wrestle with God’s faithfulness.I think this one may be the biggest and most foundational truth. I personally am walking through this as we get ready to move to Poland. I’ll be honest, we’ve had a great time of preparation. We were full of faith and diligently worked towards getting out of debt and living below our means to maximize our savings for the past three years. We have faithfully shared the vision of what God is challenging us to do with many and have been blessed to have an ever-increasing partner team. We’ve prepared for cross-culture living, left our jobs well, and have trusted God through the process and He has delivered. We’ve also placed our house up for sale, and dropped the price, again, and again… For almost three months now. It’s a seller’s market. Everyone not buying a house loves our house. Yet here we sit. We bought plane tickets. Still own a house. We’ve all but sold everything we own to people, except our house. We aren’t going anywhere until we sell it. So, my question is, “God, where are you?” “You promised a victorious life, yet here we are selling at the lower end of market value for our house?” “You do remember that thing you wanted us to do? To uproot our very good life and move across the ocean to go do what you asked?” “And this is how we get treated?” I think often times, we are afraid to acknowledge our fear of God not delivering. That we aren’t “speaking His promises” or offending God with our insecurities. If that’s the case, we clearly haven’t read the stories of Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, the Disciples, etc., etc. It seems that God is big enough to take it. As I type this, I feel I’m at the end of my rope. At a breaking point emotionally because I have not seen God deliver. It’s frustrating. It’s hard. I don’t like it and I don’t understand. And that’s probably the point. If we don’t know how to wrestle with God’s faithfulness in a seemingly minimal event in the grand scheme of things, then how can we continue to walk towards the big dreams when God seems absent?
2. Expect to be Broken DownGoing to the mission field is a great way to break down. Who doesn’t love having someone point out your weaknesses in adapting? What about asking people to partner financially with what you are going to do? Pretty emotional experience to basically put your life on the line and ask if someone feels God is calling them to invest in what you are doing. Oh and all of the details, selling a house, visas, deciding what possessions to sell, road trips and goodbyes to friends and family. So much fun. Some research shows six potential stress areas in life: relationships, finances, health, career, safety, and home. The joy of moving to the mission field is that usually all six areas get hit on some level. Change in relationships? Check. Financial situation change? Major check. Health? If your body thrives on routine, well not so much. Career? Yes. Safety in knowing what to expect, traditions, understanding of a new style of living? Afraid not. Home? Not just your house, but the entire process of having a home is gone, from how you stock your kitchen to expectations of adequate living space. The margin to handle stress becomes razor thin because, in reality, you are handling stressors in all areas, resulting in the slightest incident that could result in a breakdown. For me, it is our house not selling. For someone else, it could be lack of support from family, the thought of a change in finances, or the fear of the unknown and if you will be safe. Regardless, at some point, expect to be broken down.
3. Rebuilt. Stronger. Faster. Better. Smarter.Finally, good news. One of the things I believe God does during a season of preparation is to strip you of your personal securities and alleviate your insecurities. We can find comfort in our security of previous success, well thought out plan, or personal abilities. Yet Jesus indicated that apart from Him, we are nothing. So it seems like our abilities and successes, our securities, things we as a culture sometimes overemphasize, are secondary to our reliance on Him. Easy to say. Really difficult to live. At the same time, Jesus faithfully takes our insecurities, our lack of ability to control, and reminds us that where we are weak, He is strong. I can remember a sign in our basketball locker room in high school that read, “Winter will ask what you did all summer?” The point was that the offseason was where you worked on your weaknesses, fix your shot, conditioned, and prepared to maximize yourself for the season. Although of some benefit to work on improving during the season, the time you maximize during the offseason would allow the greatest increase to your skills as a player. It’s when you hurt the most, and it’s when your capacity increases the most. And it’s what no one sees. God takes us through offseasons at times in our life, not to derail us, but to give us the capacity to go after those dreams He has given us for the next season. Eventually, we are remade better than before, more like Him, and more prepared to pursue what we have next with Him. Not everyone moves overseas, but we all have a God dream in us that is going to take more than us. I felt compelled to write this in the middle of our season of preparation. Often times, we read these stories of how much people worked and the difficulty after the fact. We are right in the middle of it, and it’s hard. I don’t have an end yet. But I do have a God that is shaping me to go after the dreams He’s placed inside of Brandi and I. We are being chiseled, broken down, and rebuilt for our next season. And now we wait for that next season to start…
The Value of Discipline
My child, don’t underestimate the value of the discipline and training of the Lord God…We should all welcome God’s discipline as the validation of authentic sonship…Now all discipline seems to be more pain than pleasure at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it. Hebrews 12:5,8,11: TPT)
When hearing from the Lord in June 2016 that Krakow, Poland would be the place we would call home then Josiah saying it would be 2-2.5 years before we probably moved there was…frustrating, seemed like forever away, and I just didn’t see why we had to wait so long. However, as I write this I am so thankful for this almost 2-year “preparation” phase. God has really begun to prune my heart and honestly, it has been so hard and a messy process. The last 3-4 months have been pretty intense. Josiah and I completed a cultural assessment in January separately and I scored lower than average on flexibility, task confidence and leading. I knew I had always been a pretty intense list person and wanting things organized, but I felt this was a gift and was just who I was and who I had to be. However, as I began praying the Lord showed me where it was rooted- not just a generational trait like I thought, but was from the root of perfection which stems from shame. Whew.
This was fun to hear; I then came across The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and wow, that hurt. It is such a great book and I highly recommend it, but be ready to put on your big boy pants and hear things from the Lord that go down deep; I didn’t like being corrected (remember that perfectionism). So for God to reveal things to me about myself that needed to change was hard; especially things that I feel have been engrained in me and are part of me and who I am. So it was a process and still is a process, but I am learning how to operate in my gift of organization by God’s guidance instead of me just doing what I think He called me to while being stressed, frustrated and a little overboard sometimes (or a lot of time). However through this process, I have come across several verses like the ones above in Hebrews and the Lord has been so gentle in helping me understand that He is pruning my character and gifts so I can better serve Him and serve others in the days to come while living in the fruits of the Spirit, even now.
I still don’t like the process of hearing things that need to be corrected about myself and areas I need to improve in, but I press forward and dig into it because I know and have seen God’s faithfulness in transforming who I am and it is so so good. And I might add, Josiah really likes not having such a demanding and time-managed wife. I am so thankful to be called a daughter of God and that He chooses and desires for me to become more like Him; it’s just up to me to decide to take a step into trusting Him through the process, allowing change, and being uncomfortable.
Trying to Control What Isn’t Yours to Control
So to be honest, I have really been struggling with our house not being under contract yet. In my head, I thought when we put it for sale by owner, we’d have something within a week but then listing it with a realtor, I knew it’d just be days before we’d have a contract. And now as I write this, it’s been 14 days since we listed it with a realtor…
The other night I was lying in bed texting my husband and our realtor about lowering the price after once again another showing didn’t work out and I just started talking with the Lord being honest about my frustrations with all of this and how everyone says “oh it’s such a beautiful house, y’all have done a great job, it’ll sell quick.” I then read this verse: “…the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me…” John 16:33, TPT.
“AS YOU REST IN ME”…that’s the key! I feel like there are times when I want His peace, but I am not resting in Him, in His promises, and in who He is.
God then began to help me realize that I have no control over this house selling (yes, we can change the price and make it look nice), but me worrying about it several times a day, being frustrated after showings don’t like it, and not understanding why we haven’t received an offer is only harming me. God has challenged us to move to Poland to be a part of moves of God across eastern Europe, that is clear. Therefore, this house WILL sell. I would like God to work on my earthly timeline of “soon” but my previous blog was all about His timing and I believe in His timing this house will sell; he knows the family that will live here and the day, hour and second they will send us a contract. So my job is to rest in Him and receive His peace because He’s got this! I am so thankful for the Lord getting that verse in my heart instead of my head that night. And it’s more than just the house; it’s this entire transition out of Abilene, the unknowns of what’s to come, raising support, the details of taking some of our stuff, and the list goes on…but God has got this! He wants me to soak in His Presence, full of peace, joy and truth knowing His promises are always “yes and Amen!”
The Heartache of Fulfilled Dreams
And it’s because of that anticipation, we have no choice but to boldly give our all, even when it hurts and you don’t know if you will succeed.Brandi and I have a rough date of moving to Poland. August 14. It’s been a challenge, calling, dream, if you will, in my heart for over thirteen years and my wife for a decade to see moves of God happen in Central and Eastern Europe. And we have heard the Lord saying the time is now and we can’t be more excited to be joining an incredible team that is focused on reaching the city, nation, and surrounding nations. It is exciting, but in the middle of it all, there’s almost equal heartache, almost equal grief, and if we are truly honest, a little bit of fear. You see, for the past 4+ years, we have had the opportunity to be a part of some amazing things. 1250 people going on short term trips. Over 30+ units of individuals and families going on long-term missions all around the world. Millions of dollars invested in Kingdom partners. I’ve had the privilege of being apart of the intricacies of God’s calling on Beltway Park to impact the nations. And last Thursday was my last day as the full-time missions pastor. And now God is saying to launch from here. How can there not be a level of grief? I have looked and yet to discover a scenario where a dream fulfilled does not come without a greater sacrifice. At least a dream worth dreaming. Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul. At some point, they all had to step back and say, “Man, this is tough.” It seems built into the nature of pursuing God is this constant tension of celebrating what He has done, and labor in anticipation of what He is capable of doing in the future. And it’s because of that anticipation, we have no choice but to boldly give our all, even when it hurts and you don’t know if you will succeed. But He never asked us to be successful, He asked us to be His. As many of our missionaries go out, I always have encouraged them with Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” What’s really powerful is the “and” at the end. That little conjunction indicates that we will receive a hundred times over in this life what we have left behind. This Scripture is a powerful indicator of what I believe is a Kingdom promise. Jesus is acknowledging that there is a grieving, a letting go, at times, of good things in your life, so that you can fulfill the God ordain dreams so His Kingdom can come in a greater capacity on this earth. Yet, He is also promising the reward, the fulfillment, the promise of increase for our sacrifice. We are not all called to relocate our lives halfway around the world, but we are all called to pursue Him to our utmost. This will inevitably lead to a life of risks and potentially leaving good. As great as the ministry involvement has been over the past number of years, Brandi and I are leaving our home, our relationships, and fulfilling occupations for what God has next. And as excited as we are for the next, we can’t help but grieve what we have to give up. It’s the hallway conversations at work. It’s the lunches and coffees with amazing people that lead short-term trips that I can call my friends. It’s coming home to our wonderful house to relax from a long day. The security of knowing what to expect. Life has been good. As I’m writing, I’m sitting in the Frankfurt airport, about to board a plane to Krakow to spend a couple of days with a number of European leaders with a heart for planting churches. Many of these guys I’ve known for over a decade. And I remember the promise of Matthew 19. In this life… These guys are already changing their worlds. And I get to be a part now. God is continually faithful. He has yet to indicate that there is any reason to not believe that He will exceed our expectations. But it still hurts as we remember His previous faithfulness in our life and that we have to leave that now. But perhaps that’s the beauty of following God. There’s a closeness to Him as we place a for sale sign in our yard. There’s a closeness in knowing that our life is about to never be the same. After all, He is the Comforter (John 14:16).
Waiting stinks…but is oh so worth it
Prepare my heart…I didn’t quite know what I was praying when I said that, but through the following months and years, God began to bring things out of my heart and mind that needed to be changed. And this stunk! But as I write this and reflect over the last 2 years, I am so thankful for what God has done inside of me and even Zibi (KDM pastor) said to us this past summer that he could see a change in us and that we wouldn’t have been ready or been the same if we would have come earlier. Andy Stanley states in Visioneering, “waiting time is not wasted time for anyone in whose heart God has placed a vision…His desire is to work through your circumstances to maneuver you into proper position. This is easy to see when we are looking back. It is something we have to take by faith when looking ahead.” It is still not easy…my motivation for work, my attention to the now and desire to build relationships is up and down, but even now I know God is still using me here and preparing me for what’s to come. “Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting – for he will never disappoint you!” Psalm 27:14 (The Passion Translation)