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Genesis 45:24 ” See that your hearts do not become troubled along the way”

It is not a new concept to hear about or experience a winding road or a treacherous journey. The excitement and joy of the first steps are cast aside in some places as the momentary struggle gets in your way. Questions and doubts propel you in a state of confusion. You waver in your steps and without a map and no stars in the sky where do you go? In the pain or devastation what reminds you of the journey? How do you reconcile the distance? Sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking though every step is painful.

The journey, the story, inspires me. Especially when I am reminded of some of the heroes of our faith who held onto and trusted that God’s way would prevail. That each step brought them closer to their destination. They cried, they lamented, they brought their questions to God but they still put one step in front of the other and found God’s manna in each day.

Joseph is one such example. With all he suffered you would think he would have become bitter and angry toward God his family and the people around him but despite his journey he remained positive and faithful through adversity. When his brothers came before him and they were preparing to return to Canaan, Joseph’s advice to them was “see that your hearts do not become troubled along the way.” A dear friend once pointed out this verse and offered a profound thought along with it. (although she has no idea that I have been turning this thought in my heart since February….) She read this verse and commented that it’s as if he he saying ” I told you the truth and assured you that everything is going to be okay. Don’t start doubting me as time passes and you’re far away and things become unreal.” I was moved by this thought and it has held much weight in the current progress of my journey.

We have had quite the difficult month on all areas of the spectrum. It started when my son had a high fever that resulted in a seizure because of Malaria. Then Just when we found out that we were expecting again, i found myself being rushed into surgery because the pregnancy was ectopic and the baby was not growing in the right place. But with every step, I am breathing in God’s grace and seeing more and more that i never walk alone.

I know I am where I am supposed to be and though there have been moments lately where i have to stop myself from becoming bitter and holding everything against this land and from lamenting in the unfamiliar and forgetting that God hung all the stars in the sky. Even on the darkest night, under heavy cloud cover they are still there…God is still there. I can’t start doubting as time passes because God is still the author of this journey and he richly provides for us, comforts us and encourages us to stand on the side of truth.

My family and I are taking it one step at a time in this healing process and there are days that our emotional limits are being reached, or i should say my emotional limits are being reached. But God is faithful and even though we can’t see the reasons now we know that this too is part of our testimony.

“You will be rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God… and in their prayers for you because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks to God for this incredible gift! ” 2 Corinthians 9:11-12, 14-15

If you did not get paid for your job would you still show up everyday? If someone beat you, causing you to lose a child would you still welcome them into your house? If your neighbor did not show love to you would you still welcome them home with bread? I struggle with these  recent examples of grace because there is still a huge part of me that wants to resist the very definition of grace and cry for justice. I want my friends to stand up for themselves and not be taken advantage of. I want those that have wronged them to suffer. I want the rags to riches story to prevail as the unpleasant circumstances are rectified. Then per normal, I am reminded that grace encourages, grace is compassionate and it has no loophole because grace does not stop in our silence or in our own lack of generosity. Grace is unmerited favor that takes the world by surprise and its in grace that we release our grip on controlling our situations and allow God’s grace to speak.

Grace steps in our way and injures our pride. It is not a heavy thing to carry but our guilt trips makes it a heavy burden to bare. Unmerited and undeserved, grace is not hindered by our first encounters. Something so freely given is the hardest thing to receive. Sometimes I find myself trying wrap my mind around the very essence of what grace is, then grace is found in the common place. A word that is so simple yet so rich in meaning should be held in reverence, but God gave it to us so freely. It is in the situations that I mentioned that the impact of grace hits me even more. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “See to it that no one misses that grace of God” (12:15) So in other words, Gods unconditional and unmerited kindness toward us means that our words and actions should reflect God’s grace in us. Grace makes sense when you are not being paid for your job but you still show up. Grace is the bread that welcomes a neighbor home and grace is keeping your arms and house open to those who have hurt you. If that’s not a slap in the face, I don’t know what is. To understand that grace is so much more than 5 simple letters.

Today, my heart is continuing to be strengthened by grace.

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” Hebrews 13:9

“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” Acts 9:6

I love the progression of how God uses scripture in my life. Sometimes it’s just those gentle reminders that God is in control. When I want to  run, God reminds me that He has prepared the way. When I am frightened he reminds me to cast all of my cares upon him. When I look at the mountain and think in my heart that it is too hard to climb, God reminds me that it is just a step at a time and with only a little bit of faith the mountain will move. In reality I don’t think that it is the actual mountain that moves but in turn my perspective of things changes. With each step I realize that what I am leaving is not better than what I am stepping into. The view from the summit is much better than the view from the bottom of the mountain.

As some of you may or may not know, my husband and I have been reunited after spending 8 months apart from each other. My last post referenced this separation and I knew that I could not run away from my circumstances but I had to run toward where ever it was that God was leading us. And now, similarly to Paul, we have been called into this place unsure of what God is doing here. We now find ourselves once again in West Africa(Benin), a continent away from anything familiar. We don’t know how long we are called here but we have a peace in knowing that this is where we are supposed to be. In some ways it is a little strange for me to be in Africa without a time limit of when I will return home. I think knowing the distance that I had to travel made the transitions easier in the past but this time it is much different. I am now here with my husband and my son, the decisions that I make don’t only affect me but my whole family. I am not under the umbrella of an organization but I am under the cover of an Almighty God and with that I know that God is faithful and He who has called me is faithful to complete the work and even though it may not look the way that I think it should I want my life to reflect God’s life in me.

More and more, I am reminded of some of the differences in both of our cultures. In some ways, I realize the weight of some of my “American” mentality where the pressures of day to day living can be a heavy burden. On the flip side the pressures of living in this new place can be exhausting. The days seem to move quickly here. Time is measured by the Muslim’s call to prayer 5 times a day, 48 hour deodorant only lasts about 6 hours and I know how long I have been here by the daily increase of mosquito bites. As we continue to wait upon the Lord for his direction, things have slowly become “normal” again. There are still many things that I struggle with but I want to be on the same page as the Lord and my husband. From the beginning, my husband and I wanted to put aside our different cultures and focus on the I know this is where I am supposed to be and my heart is excited to see what the Lord has in store for us.

But I am at peace, my family is together and already James and I have been able to minister to different people as a couple, as a team. The seeds that God has planted are being watered. Each day we are closer to understanding the direction that the Lord is leading us. He called us out upon the water to a place unknown and where our feet may fail, only He can carry us. (Oceans-Hillsong reference) We can stand upon this mountain and see a new perspective of where we have come from and we know that God is with us. Everything we have, everything we are is His we will follow him because He has called us into the city to wait to be told what we must do.

Whatever you do, Don’t run!

“Why are you frightened?” He asked, “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?”

Luke 24:38

 

If a Grizzly bear is standing in front of you, don’t run. When a lion stares you down from behind the tall grass in the Sahara, don’t run. In the chance of a moose sighting, don’t run. In every survival guide whether it be from North America, the Tundra or Africa, when something big is standing in front of you the advice is always the same, Don’t run. Similarly what happens when the bear turns into a fiery furnace, the moose into the wall of Jericho and the Lion into a city or situation that we don’t want to step foot into? Why would you go against the odds? In most cases running seems like the better option, but time and time again God has shown me that  when He calls us to something he has already gone before us and prepared the way.

Presently I feel like I am standing frozen while a lion stares me down. That place where everything seems to move forward while I stand still. My heart is beating so fast that sometimes I can’t hear myself think. Every part of me wants to run, especially to a time where this is either before me or behind me and in some ways I just want to be over with it.  But in the midst of this place this verse from Luke continues to challenge me. “Why are you frightened? Why is your heart filled with doubt?” Then my conversation with God continues as he asks “What about me? Have I not brought you to this place? Have I not gone before you and behind you and prepared this way? Am I not leading you to the place that I have called you?”

Why am I frightened? Maybe it’s because I doubt in the dark what God has confirmed in the light. With some recent decisions both my husband and I have had a peace in our hearts concerning everything that we currently face. We both know that we cannot run from what stands before us. We can’t allow ourselves to be discouraged. Our focus remains on the one that has proven himself over and over again in our lives. He is faithful.

“Who can match You, God

Forever, never changed

You remain the same

Mighty, faithful One

Heaven’s Majesty

Throughout eternity

 

You will be faithful, faithful

We declare what You have done

Throughout history

You’ve shown Yourself

Faithful, faithful

In Your name there is power to save

‘Cause You are faithful” ( Faithful by Sean Keith)

 

He is faithful. He can’t be matched. He is the author and finisher of our faith and I have to continue to trust that He has my husband taken care of. He has my son too. He is who He says he is an i am not the first one to step foot into this place with him. Whatever i do,  I can’t run.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” Martin Luther King Jr

“And whether the land they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities they dwell in are camps or strongholds and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not, be of good courage and bring some fruit of the land.” Numbers 13:20

I know that it has been a while, my sincerest apologies. As I write this, I am currently somewhere off the coast of Africa sailing away from Guinea and toward the Canary Islands. It is only when we started sailing that I was hit with the realization that rest IS important. There are countless scriptures that call us to rest and honestly it is not something that I have done well over these last couple of months. I now find myself spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted!

 In all honesty Guinea was not the easiest of places with its frequent demonstrations and political unrest, BUT is a place that I will always hold dear to my heart.  It was also a place where God brought me to my knees when I wanted to run or hide but instead I was reminded to pray and thank him. God did miraculous things and He changed my perspective of it even as I sailed away. My heart didn’t see the things that previously repulsed me it saw the hearts of those that I had the privilege of living life with. I remembered Mica, a sweet Muslim man, and the ways that he loved on James and me whenever we came into his restaurant. I saw Joseph and Rachel, a couple that we met from the very beginning, and how they helped us prepare for our wedding and how they lived every moment with joy and passion for the Lord. I saw Brother John and sister Grace and their sweet daughters that changed the world with their hugs and smiles. I saw light breakthrough in a place where at first glance I saw only darkness.  It is the place where I made my vows to my husband; it is the place where I formed lasting friendships that saddens my heart to think that I had to sail away from them. It is the place where I became more than a grasshopper (see previous post) and it is a place where I moved further into where God is calling me. It is here that I relinquished the struggle to prove myself competent and embraced God’s competence.

In my weariness, I am reminded of Elijah. After running from Queen Jezebel‘s threat on his life, Elijah offered up his prayer to the heavens and all he received was silence. He was threatened by this silence and thought that God had abandoned him. He was weary of heart, but God still made provision for him and provided him with physical sustenance to help him through. Just like those that had gone before him, he made a forty day journey to Mt. Horeb which ironically was the same place that God met Moses. All the days that seemed desolate and silent, God was still there leading, guiding and providing strength for all that He had prepared for Elijah.

I love the question that was asked on that mountain…”what are you doing here Elijah?” I have asked myself that so many times. Elijah’s response was “I’ve been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”  Then he was told to stand at attention on the mountain and God would pass by. God who controls the wind and fire, and who created the heavens in the Earth did not appear to Elijah through any of these things, He appeared in a gentle whisper that comforted the weary traveler. Elijah knew of God’s great love and concern for him. He was able to pour out all that he had within him before God and he was comforted because there on that mountain, God did not give him a message for the masses but he gave him a personal message that reminded Elijah of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Even though I am worn out, I see how God continues to prepare me for the journey ahead that I cannot see. Marsha Crockett in her book dancing in the Desert writes

                ”Sometimes, following seasons of fruitfulness, we find ourselves inexplicably in a desert, burned out by the burst of activity. As I entered this dry and unproductive place, I should have contented myself to lean back into the much needed stillness descending upon me., to let it seep in and restore my soul. But I am not a patient rester. I cry like a child, “Can I get up now? I’m not tired, I don’t want to rest.” I can relate to Elijah hiding in the cave. The whirlwinds, the fire and earthquakes in life do not surprise me. But when God comes in stillness and whispers his love, I sometimes want to cover my head, unsure of what to make of his tender presence and his call to come and rest.

 

I am nearing the end of a ‘season’ and even though the season was difficult, I am bringing fruit from the land. As mentioned in Numbers 13:20 “and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not, be of good courage and bring some fruit of the land.” My time with Mercy Ships is almost complete (Unless God sends us back) but I thank you for all of your prayers and support as I have learned how to harvest in this field.

Ancient Paths

Gateway Summer 2012

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

The scene is familiar, rocky roads and paths that break through Africa’s vegetation. Africa is known for its unbalanced car rides that host its occupants and then send them away with a few bumps and bruises on their heads. The path winds and bends and at each break the journeyer is left with a decision. Left or right, straight, narrow or winding, each one triggers the curiosity that keeps the feet moving in their direction. The paths are sometimes hidden but their presence is known. Whenever I am driving along, I have watched many people emerge from these paths some with solemn faces and others overflowing with Joy. It has made me wonder what lies beyond the path. What lies beyond the bend that leaves it’s traveler with their story of joy or sorrow marked on their face? Every path is different, but each one tells a story.

There was a time that I had this ambition to travel down every road, just to see what was at its end. I wanted to be a map maker and discover what was unknown to the majority and to find those places that I could call my own. I envied the adventurers and I wanted to see what their eyes saw. I wanted to uncover the mystery of each place and brave new lands.
As I got older, reality sunk in and I began to fear the path and the unknown, the uncertainty of where my feet would lead me got harder as I realized even more what lay ahead. It remained harder still when I started driving. Being directionally challenged made finding different roads easier but desiring to see what lay ahead less attainable. I found myself “lost’ on many occasions. Was I really lost? After all I was discovering the unknown right? I was on an adventure. There was definitely a difference between when I wanted to be on the path and when I just wanted to find my way home. Now it has hit me. There is a difference in the course when God is leading us down and when I force my own way through.

Africa has it’s mysteries and the longer that I stay here it’s paths are leading me home. I don’t feel lost here. I don’t feel like I want to turn around because my feet keep moving me to discover what lies beyond the bend. There is more than just my feet moving me in this direction and the reason for that is that my courtship with this land began longer than I can remember. God called me to this place and on December 15, 2012 I married into this land. Daily, I am learning more about this place and I am beginning to understand it through my husband’s heart. The mysteries of Africa are becoming great treasures and they are new every morning.

Talk about paths and finding their direction. I would have never imagined that God had all of this in store for me when I first put my feet on this path. I was expecting a cat and God gave me a lion. I was looking for an adventure but God gave me my heart song. It has been quite the change between being single and now finding myself as a wife. A new generation will begin with us. A new chapter is being opened and there is an outpouring of blessing. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

Before I was born, God knew I would be here. It is the ancient path that he already mapped out for me. I continue to cut the branches of this ancient path, and there is rest for my soul.

“Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.” Genesis 24:21

Over the last 2 years, I have learned a lot about prayer. I have learned about surrender and I have learned that God has so much planned for us. In this time, I have also learned about waiting on the Lord as we bring our hearts before him. God knows, God cares and His love is amazing. He is not just the designer of love, He is love.

When I first came to Mercy Ships, I carried a lot of baggage here with me. I am not talking about the physical baggage but the emotional baggage that only God knows the full weight of. The transition was difficult but through it all, I knew that this is where God called me.

There was one night that I remember so vividly. I discovered a long time ago that I remember days in my life and I think about them annually. On such a day I was remembering the broken promises from a year ago and broke down before the Lord and brought before him questions about Michael, David’s wife. I asked what was it like to know a man after God’s own heart? What was it like to know him as a friend and a confidant? Did he lead you with strong hands? Did He comfort you with his strength?

After pouring my heart out the Lord reassured me and reminded me “you have love imprinted on your heart. You have gained a new understanding of the depth of my love and you have experienced a love that is temporary. You yearn to go deeper. In questioning Michael and what was it like to love a man after God’s own heart, don’t look at the shadows in the mountains as Men. Don’t look for what is not there. You are in her place. You are seeking after my love you are seeking after my son. You are seeking after the man after my own heart. Beloved, see the mountain and not just the shadows.” My heart remembers Lord. “Let it remember but you have already come down from the mountain. Here I am. My love is your love, fill your cup with it and pour it out. Go love again. I have equipped you beloved; you are prepared for what I have called you for. I have hired you for this place, called you by name and taken care of all the details. Look ahead and don’t be blinded by my light. Don’t look behind you anymore. Don’t punish yourself with guilt. It is mine to carry, your burden is light.

Ten days later, there was an open house for the academy. Since the Academy is normally off limits to the crew we have one night a year where we invite the crew to see the academy and take part in some “educational” activities. That night, I met the man I am now engaged to. Despite my hesitation to listen to my call to “go love again” He pursued me in a quiet and gentle way. He reminded me of when Isaac sent his servant to find Rebekah. He sat quietly and waited to see if God had prospered his journey. He didn’t rush into it, he prayed about it as God worked on me.

I have always related to Rebekah’s story because in that moment, Rebekah was challenged with the decision that was before her. In choosing Isaac, she would leave the home and family that she knew, and then she would travel across the miles on camelback to a new place. When her family called her they asked “will you go with this man?” Her response, with her heart settled and at peace was “I will go.” Rebekah was certain of God’s sovereign direction and that is what encouraged her decision and through that, it revealed her trust in the Lord.

All that to say, I am engaged! He and I are planning our wedding for the 15th of December here in Guinea. I prayed that the next guy that I was with would be able to see my heart. He, a man from Nigeria, a man that is compassionate and seeks to serve the Lord, is that man. When I threw that fleece out and told God that if he is the one for me to let him see my heart. Within days he was talking to me and said “Rebekah I see your heart, I know who you are.” God has opened his heart to see mine and we both have a burden for Africa. For longer than I can remember this has remained in my heart. This is part of me, this is what I am called to. Unfortunately, this means that I am truly leaving my father’s land and stepping into this place that God has called me. Though I am not traveling by camel, the miles are falling behind me. Yes, on some days the distance seems unbearable but God’s strength is my strength and I am learning the depths of His call on my life.

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