Our November 2019 updates are in click here for details.
Earlier this year, in July to be more precise, I learned that some jewelry I had left in the USA with my son had been stolen (we live in Burundi, Africa). Together with the help of the local detective, my son located the items at a local pawn shop. After speaking with the owner and proving that the items were indeed mine and stolen, a hold was placed on them pending resolution of the case. In the meanwhile, I wrote a personal statement and sent it in to the investigating detective and waited to travel Stateside for our usual bi-yearly itineration. We were set to arrive in September and would work on collecting the jewelry at that time.
When we finally arrived in town and managed to talk to the detective face-to-face, we learned that retrieving our property would be a bit more complicated than we had originally imagined. The owner of the shop had offered to “give” us our property if we paid him $500.00. We felt such a sum was unfair and followed the detective’s advice to file papers at the courthouse to get the property returned to us. The shop owner was resolute and would not return the stolen property; we were given a date to appear before a judge just last week (October 24).
I found myself standing last Thursday morning at a podium next to the pawn shop owner before a judge. The whole process for me was nerve wracking. My husband (Jamie), who had pushed for us to get the items returned in the first place, has the emotional strength of an army. His mantra throughout the process was, “It’s not their jewelry! We are going to get it back!” I followed his lead, all the while feeling wobbly and anxious about what the actual outcome would be.
I am an Enneagram 2w1 personality for those who might be interested, it may shed light on my reaction!
Yes, the necklace and bracelet were mine, yes they were stolen and yes I wanted them back. However, I also knew that things don’t always turn out as we hope or plan and my negativity took over “helping” me to prepare for disappointment. I went so far as saying, “Let them keep it!” when the shop owner refused to return in voluntarily. Jamie would not hear of it and off we went to see the judge last Thursday.
Since the jewelry was mine, I was the one called to stand at the podium. I knew Jamie would most likely have done a better job than me in explaining the whole situation but I did my best when my account of events was called for. I kept things truthful, simple and to-the-point. There was no need for anything more or less, I reckoned, as a little part of me hoped that the right thing would happen.
When it was time for the shop owner to speak, his words were loud, coarse and shaded. The judge, while she had pity on him that he had paid $1,100.00 for the items and had lost money, had no pity on him when it came to her reminding him of the law. He had to return the jewelry to me without pay – they were mine and it was wrong, against the law, for him to keep them.
An order was written on the spot and handed to both parties ordering the shop to return the items to me free of any charge. About an hour later, I found myself wearing the necklace and bracelet, a bit embarrassed at my pessimism throughout the process.
Why did I doubt You, Lord?
Luke 19:3 NASB “Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was…”
I was trying hard to see Jesus but I was just too short to see above the tree line. I thought my problem was not of any consequence; a necklace and bracelet have no value in light of the lives of the children we feed in Burundi and Malawi or the schools that we are opening. It seemed so trivial, but I hoped that somehow those unnecessary items would silently make their way home without any fuss. So, like Zacchaeus, I had to climb up just a bit higher to see Him and recognize what He was doing and just like He did for Zacchaeus, Jesus came home on Thursday to eat with me at our table – and He brought the necklace and bracelet home to me.
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I’ve been flying (literally) under the radar these past few weeks. We are traveling; giving reports and connecting with churches, friends and partners of the work in Africa. While it may sound glamorous, all of the traveling, it’s actually quite arduous. We travel in economy everywhere we go (we have been bumped up to business class twice that I can remember in our 33 years of traveling overseas) and do our best to keep costs down. This translates into lots of “making do” and cheaper meals on the go which will often give me lots of fodder for blogging.
There’s always something good that comes out of our inconvenience.
Our current route has already taken us through Belgium, the UK, Florida and now Texas. It’s a real honor to see people who we’ve connected with over the years; some have been supporting us since the year we began this amazing journey in 1987. How have we gotten this far? It’s got to be a God thing because alone we wouldn’t have made it past our first 6 months in Africa.
I’m certainly not the best, or even mediocre, theologian, expository speaker or writer that can give a more precise explanation for the wonders we have experienced. Perhaps if I had the right charisma or gifting that would naturally draw people, that could possibly explain some of what we have seen over the years – but I am hopelessly ordinary. There’s nothing about my personality that would make me stand out in a crowd, that would merit the attention of more than one or two people, those two being my husband and (maybe) one of my children.
I would describe myself as an introvert. Yes, an introvert. For those reading who know me now, you might find yourself chuckling because I can, under the right circumstances, wax loquacious. My verbose tendencies are mostly learned; perhaps I’ve learned the lesson too well. Nevertheless, even with my not-so-newfound long-winded tendencies, I am far and away from those who have become rich and famous through their communication skills.
Indeed, the past 33 years of seeing what we’ve seen can only be explained by the Unexplainable One Himself – it’s been a God thing, and He has been so good in caring for us every single day. As I see it, we’ve been given a task and as long as we have stayed committed, God has graced us to take part in the adventure of a lifetime.
My understanding of how God has brought us this far might run cross-grain to those who have to have an explanation for everything. Together with my learned speaking skills, I have learned to be comfortable with being out of the know, for there are some things that are just “too wonderful,” He’s just too good for me to understand.
Job 42:3 NIV “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not undersand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
While I might overcommunicate from time to time or keep my husband and children waiting for me as I talk with friends, I’ve learned there are just some things I need to keep my mouth shut about because they are just too wonderful. They go above my pay grade – and I’m OK with that.
So we’ll just keep doing what we are doing: planting churches, opening schools and feeding programs, working in local prisons and starting leadership academies and whatever else we’re graced to do knowing that God understands how He will get the job done. We simply have to keep ourselves on point and our eyes fixed to the task at hand because the intricacies of how to get it done are just too wonderful, and He will keep on being good.
I wasn’t a very good bank teller.
Early in life as I tried to find my way, I decided to apply for a job as a bank teller. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to think that I would do well as a bank teller. You see, when I was in 5th grade, I had to take extra math classes over the summer break to pass into 6th grade. Nevertheless, I bravely took the plunge and passed the entrance exam and became an official bank teller.
I was assigned to a supervisor who taught me the ins and outs of bank telling. One of the skills I learned was how to balance all transactions at the end of every work day. While I felt initimidated by all of the math I faced daily, I managed to do well and slowly settled into the mundane work of counting and balancing.
One day, after a particularly long day of counting, I went to balance my transactions. The goal was for all transactions to come out evenly which I managed to do by this point on a regular basis. However, on this day I came up $10,000.00 short of the amount that I should have had in the drawer. My heart began to race and I called my supervisor who said, “Don’t worry, these things happen, you will find the error in a day or two as you continue to work.”
Trusting her advice, I went home with my heart in my throat, believing that the next day I would find the error. Unfortunately as the week unfolded, I was unable to pinpoint my mistake, much to the chagrin of my supervisor who called me to her office one afternoon and made it clear that I needed to find the $10,000.00 quickly.
The day after my meeting with my supervisor, I stayed at my desk after my shift was done, determined to fix the problem. Thankfully, after pouring through piles of papers and receipts for what seemed like hours, I found where I had added some figures twice. I shouted, “I found it!” Cheers went up from those around me and then and there I decided bank telling wasn’t for me; I gave my two-week notice a few days later.
While my bank-telling career was short-lived, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Deep inside I knew that my life would pan out very differently than what most people would think was normal; I knew the trajectory of my life would shoot me far from my homeland to where I’m now serving, Africa.
I knew who I was.
I was an unlikely candidate for missions work; I didn’t have a ministry pedigree or any kind of background one would expect that would be needed to qualify to work overseas. Those close to me wondered aloud (in as nice a way that they could of course) what special talent did I have that I could use overseas? What did I have to offer that others couldn’t do better?
That call, however, couldn’t be shaken and all these years later, as average as I may be, I’m still answering the call to go (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve found that those answering the call often look less like the obvious choice; we often don’t appear to be the best suited for the job. Certainly there are smarter, stronger, richer, and more popular individuals who could do what I get to do here – but whoever they are never answered the call, so here I am.
Jesus had the opposite problem – He was overqualified for His call. He spent His life in obscurity, comparing to the glory He was accustomed to in heaven, rejected as unqualified by those He came to save. Yet He never took His eye off the prize: you and I.
When it came time for Jesus to balance His transactions for the day, He made no error, His figures were perfect, but those around Him couldn’t believe Him. They simply couldn’t accept someone like Him could be the one they were waiting for.
But He knew Who He was.
In Luke 4:1-21 we find Jesus, who had just begun His ministry in areas outside His home region where people knew Him, standing up and quoting Isaiah’s proclamation of what the work of the Messiah was to be:
Isaiah 61:1-3 MEV “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to preserve those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty
for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”
After reading this passage, Jesus went on to say in Luke 4:21 MEV “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people listening became enraged, how could someone they knew, someone they had seen grow up, make such a bold delcaration? They weren’t ready for their preconceived ideas of how the Messiah would come to be challenged; surely He wouldn’t come as the son of a carpenter. The crowd quickly decided to take matters in their own hands:
Luke 4:28-30 MEV “All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. They rose up and thrust Him out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”
The end of the day hadn’t yet come for Jesus, He wasn’t meant to die at that point and He kept on working, He kept on counting.
Finally, after three years of pouring Himself out, Jesus’ time to balance His accounts came. He poured over the receipts, you and I, He agonized over each and every transaction before Him: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and those who mourn. His calling, His anointing, wasn’t meant to do anything but bring those He loved to Himself.
Qualifying for God’s call simply means accepting what we are anointed for: to gather others to the Father by whatever means necessary.
So, who will be next to go?
Last week started out as any normal week but as the days unfolded, it turned into an abnormally normal one. Let me try to unravel the tangled mess that we walked through and have found, unfortunately, to be all-too-common on this side of the planet.
After an amazing weekend at church, I received word early on Tuesday morning from one of our church members, Joseline, that her 5-year-old niece, Grace, was very sick with malaria. She had been transferred from a local clinic to a government hospital on Monday and had taken a turn for the worse. I had planned to be out around lunchtime and said I’d pass by around 1 p.m. to pray for Grace. She immediately replied, “Come now.”
Gripped by the urgency of the moment, I jumped into the car with Selenie, one of our leaders and a dear friend, who lives nearby our house and headed for the hospital. Joseline met us outside with worry written all over her face; she briefed us on how the child had suddenly taken a turn for the worse overnight and doctors were scrambling to treat her. More tests were needed, we all gave some money to pay quickly as nothing is done here without up-front payment, and Joseline ran off to pay for the ordered exams.
By this time, we were standing outside the intensive care unit where Grace was but had not yet been allowed to enter. Grace’s mother came out momentarily and was able to escort us to the bedside of her little daughter. An older relative, who I assumed was her grandmother, was stroking her head as she was convulsing and praying desperate prayers. Selenie and I, unprepared to see what was happening before us, laid our hands on Grace’s flailing arms and legs and began to pray. Little can be said in such a moment of anguish so we cried out to Jesus. A few moments later, I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye and knew the doctors wanted to tend to her (I assumed the ordered tests had been paid for and they were prepared to perform the tests). We concluded our prayers and exited the room, the heavy metal door locking loudly behind us.
We did our best to enourage Grace’s father and other family members we found outside, but our words felt so very inadequate. Grace’s father had married her mother after his first wife died and Grace was their first child together. His facial expression belied his worry and I had no words; I could only be present.
After some time, Selenie and I made our way home, praying for the best. What we had hoped and prayed for, a miracle healing, did not take place and less than two hours later, Joseline’s message came, “The child has died.”
I had no words.
I had alerted women in the church to pray when news first came of Grace, I had hoped not to have to bring them the news of her death. With a heavy heart, I forwarded the message to the ladies and what came next was what I find to be one of the greatest qualities of the people in this part of the world: their ability to comfort grieving families by simply being present.
By Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Grace’s death, the family made arrangements to transport Grace’s remains to a local morgue as there aren’t funeral services here to make arrangements for families. I am not sure why she wasn’t placed into the morgue at the hospital where she had been treated; I suspect it was full. By Tuesday evening, a “kilio” (literally translated, “a crying”), a time of mourning with the family, was being held at the family’s home on the outskirts of town. Since Grace came from a believing family, the feeling at the kilio was full of hope, comfort, and love. Family, friends and church members filled the house for the three days leading up to the funeral.
At a kilio one doesn’t have to do anything; you go, sit, pray, offer whatever words you may have to offer but the main point of the kilio is to be present. Together with Selenie and another lady from church, we went and spent time with the family for a few hours. The women sat apart from the men on the floor in the house; ladies came in, greeted one another, prayed, sometimes even slept, and sat with Grace’s mother. The men sat outside under a makeshift tent in chairs doing the same for the father. The understanding of the pain felt by loved ones in the death of family members runs deep here; everyone unfortunately has felt the sting associated with death many times. Here, it is understood that to be present is the greatest gift that one can give.
Friday morning arrived and according to custom, we met the family and others at the morgue and waited for the body to be released. Those who wanted, were allowed to view the body, called “jicho la mwisho” (literally translated, “the last eye”), and when all paperwork was complete, the funeral procession made its way to the graveyard about 30 minutes away by car.
Under the blazing sun, we filed to the graveside where a short but very poignant ceremony began. All did their best to remain brave, however, when the time came to read Grace’s short biography, the tears flowed. She had finised “ecole maternelle” (kindergarten) and was preparing to enter first grade, how short her life was and the unspoken question “why” settled in our minds but all of us determined to release that unanswerable question to an all-knowing God. Parents, family and friends took turns leaving flowers at the grave and finally, it was time to say goodbye – for now. We know that one day those graves will open when the sky lights up (1 Thess. 4:16) and all tears will finally be wiped away (Isa. 25:8).
A short ceremony was held at another venue after leaving the graveside by the family to thank all well-wishers and those who had helped the family at their darkest moment. As custom has it, the kilio for young children doesn’t extend beyond the burial. It was formally lifted at this short ceremony, but it was easy to see that for Grace’s parents, the kilio was ongoing.
Malaria kills 1,200 children daily, about 50 per hour, around the world. 90% of those deaths occur in Africa. Earlier this year, we handed out 200 mosquito nets in a rural area outside of Bujumbura city and I wonder how we can do more, help more and prevent more deaths. Grace, whose story we lived last week, is just one of 1,000s. Since she died, approximately 8,400 others just like her have succumbed to the disease. Pray with us and for us so that we can reach more families in the coming year with mosquito nets and malaria prevention classes, it is the least we can do.
And when we have done what we can, while there may not be words, we will simply be present.
I’m a minimalist. I don’t care for excess “fluff” in my house. Give me the basics; I need clean lines and easy-to-maintain surroundings. Looking around my home and through my very-much-in-need-of-an-update wardrobe, the theme “less is more” definitely stands out. What I didn’t know until recently was that minimalistic living is a “thing” these days and I am, as a minimalist, fashionable.
This news took me by surprise; never has it ever occurred to me that I would be on the fashion bandwagon. For a brief moment, very brief, I wondered what levels of fame my unintended minimalism could catapault me to. I quickly realized that I’m too minimalist to bother with the hussle and bustle required to expound on the benefits of living with just what is needed, thus my dream of minimalist fame ended.
How much do I need? Not very much at all.
Our work as missionaries in Africa has moved me to several countries, and even continents, over the years and this has forced me to live only with what I need. In our early years of missions work, I would pack as many supplies as I could to make sure we didn’t run out of things like socks, dental floss, deodorant, and Ziploc® bags. As the years have passed, I’ve needed less with each move that we have made. To date, all we need to settle into a new country is: two or three changes of clothes each, two pairs of shoes, toothbrushes, deodorant, and a set of plates and cutlery for four. Finances of course have played a major role in our need to live as simply as we have, but we’ve never lacked anything that we have needed.
This is why when, around 20 years ago, my husband purchased a beautiful gold necklace and matching bracelet for me, I struggled to wear it in public. We were in the States for the holidays (we have only made it back to be with family for the holidays a handful of times in over 30 years of missions work) and while we were out shopping, trying to buy Christmas presents for our family, he noticed me admiring a necklace and bracelet. The thought of him noticing still brings a smile to my face all these years later. Christmas morning I was stunned when first of all, he gave me a gift as we usually don’t exchange gifts. Then when I opened the beautiful box I saw the very necklace and bracelet I had admired; my heart just melted and he is still garnering points for that Christmas gift all these years later.
Yet I struggled with “what will people think” if I wore the necklace and bracelet? Any time someone complimented how beautiful they were when I wore them, I found a way to explain the blessing away. Thus the necklace and bracelet were tucked away, only to be used for special occasions such as weddings and graduation services.
In our travels, the necklace and bracelet still in the original box, remained in the States while we were in Africa. I reckoned at some point I would bring it with me as my home is here; but I still found it difficult to reckon with the idea of wearing such a beautiful piece of jewelry that I obviously didn’t need – but loved.
Two weeks ago, my son Stephen messaged me and his first words were, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m alright.” That sentence flagged me immediately; there was something unusual going on. Steve went on to explain that there had been a theft at the house and among the items lost were the necklace and bracelet. I was stunned and hot tears formed at the backs of my eyes. Thankful first of all that Steve was alright, I took pains to make sure that he wouldn’t feel guilty for the loss of the items. The last thing I wanted was for him to feel guilty for the theft, the only person who ought to feel guilty was the one who did the stealing!
The police were called, we pressed charges and after a few days we found out the person who stole from us (who has been apprehended) had also stolen from others and is likely to spend quite some time in prison. Through a series of events and help from the local detectives, my bracelet and necklace were found. Steve messaged and sent a picture of the items which I immediately identfied (I recognized the clasp that I had bent). Unfortunately, there’s a chance we will have to pay about $500.00 to retrieve them – but that they were found is a miracle in and of itself. I’m praying that another miracle will be found in God’s handbag that will save us from having to pay the $500.00.
Living as a minimalist has its definite pros that have helped me move from place to place with less stress, but I had allowed my thinking of living with less to translate into feeling ashamed. I was ashamed, felt as if I didn’t deserve or as if people wouldn’t understand why I, a missionary, could have something as beautiful as the necklace and bracelet.
When they were stolen, I mourned their loss and thought, “Why did I have them anyway?” And just like that, I let them go internally, knowing they would never be recovered. All the while as I was talking myself out of ever seeing them again, a small voice scolded me saying, “Why didn’t you enjoy them while you had them? Why can’t God bring them back to you?”
You see God isn’t a thief (John 10:10), He didn’t give me those two pieces of jewelry for them to sit in a drawer and then be stolen. He gave them to me to enjoy them, for them to serve as a reminder of how much my husband cares for and values me. How had I come to devalue myself as I had?
I will keep living with just what I need; I don’t need very much and don’t want to be bothered with so much stuff that I spend more time caring for what I have than for the people in my life. God is interested in people, they are what He values (John 3:16) but sometimes He will bless us with something we don’t need just to remind us that He’s Dad and loves to surprise us like that.
We will travel Stateside for a time of travel, itinerating, and reporting on the work here and while we are there we will work on retrieving that beautiful necklace and bracelet. There’s one thing that is for sure, when we finally do retrieve them –
I’ll wear the necklace.
“Most religious principles don’t liberate us; they confine and enslave us. Most practices and disciplines do more to highlight our futility than they do to empower us for glory.” Chris Tiegreen
Don’t wear this.
Don’t do that.
Don’t say that.
And definitely don’t listen to that.
The list of dos and don’ts in our lives is endless. When our children grow from being an infant to becoming a toddler, we bombard them with “No, no, no!” Almost everything is off limits to them and in true toddler fashion, they will crash through every barrier we try to create. A wise parent, while having to put boundaries in place for safety and growth, will not only construct healthy boundaries for their children, they will also create an atmosphere of understanding why those boundaries exist.
Employers have certain rules in place in the workplace that employees are naturally expected to observe. Be that as it may, it is inevitable that rules will be broken and ultimately some employees will face termination due to their resistance to following the rules. In this scenario it’s not uncommon for complaints to be filed and damages to be sued for – all because rules weren’t followed or broken.
Imagine how God feels when He sees the bigger picture and tries to guide us into what He knows to be best for us, we resist and break His guidelines. As we resist, like toddlers or the erring employee, we talk ourselves into the “rightness” of our decisions despite all of the evidence saying we’ve taken a wrong turn. Because we can’t sue God for damages or lost wages, we instead look for ways to keep proving we are right and our relationship with Him suffers and His once-familiar voice fades into silence.
I was driving in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, a number of years ago looking for a guest house we had heard of and were hoping to look at and use as future accomodations for visitors. I was in a two-door Daihatsu Rugger (looked like some kind of jeep) and had a friend with me in the vehicle, helping me look for the guest house. As we drove down the dual-carriage road, I began to feel discouraged as we were failing to find the place. I heard the phrase, “Turn around here,” in my mind but at the same time I thought “Let me just go a bit farther.” I had already driven this far, I thought I should at least go a little further.
A short while later, I decided it was time to turn around and pulled into a turning lane that separated the dual-carriage road. The moment I had stopped and was waiting to turn around, I heard a screeching sound and looked in my rear-view mirror and caught a glimpse of a large Toyota Land Cruiser headed straight for my side of the vehicle – and I closed my eyes and braced for impact.
The larger vehicle hit me and, from a full stop, propelled my vehicle into the opposite lane. I opened my eyes and checked on my passenger who was thankfully fine, as was I. Shaken, I sat in my seat for a moment knowing that I was going to have to tell Jamie about the accident (this was pre-cell phone days) and then we were going to have to figure out how to pay to fix our vehicle. Yes, we had insurance but that really didn’t (and still doesn’t) mean much in our part of the world. Thankful that there wasn’t traffic or pedestrians that were involved in the accident, I pushed the heavily dented door open and checked on the status of both vehicles. Mine was majorly damaged; the driver’s door was damaged as was the body of the vehicle on the driver’s side. The Land Cruiser that hit me, however, didn’t look as if anything had happened.
In a short while, the police came, spent about a half an hour with the driver of the Land Cruiser in their vehicle, then took my driver’s license, and informed me that I was at fault. Tears stung the back of my eyes as I made arrangements to go to the police station. Some weeks of stress sorting and cleaning up after this whole escapade followed, and I cried many tears of regret for not listening to the voice that said, “Turn around here.”
Since then, I have tried to listen to the voice, to the direction that I heard last because I am not keen on having to clean up when I don’t have to. I came to understand that I don’t really know very much at all as I only see a very small part of what is going on in the world around me.
God’s Word, His ways, are often read like a rule book that we try to adhere to like employees at the work place. Following God this way, not listening and watching through ears and eyes of faith won’t liberate us. In fact, if we simply try to be good and follow the rules, we will eventually break out of those boundaries. What we are missing in our pursuit of God is a deep relationship with Him as when we fall into step with Him, those boundaries no longer bind us. We, instead, eagerly wait for the next step knowing we won’t possibly be able to take it without His guidance.
No, I don’t know better, not at all, and that is just fine with me.
Between the two of us, those two being my husband Jamie and I, I am most certainly the most pessimistic. Jamie gets out of bed with an optimism that can’t be fabricated. He is naturally outgoing, social, and energetic. However, he says that in his younger years he was negative and sullen, almost to the point of depression. Only because I know Jamie can’t lie, do I believe him; he is so very different now to what he describes himself as being in his teens.
My family comes from Finland where people tend to be kindly pessimistic. I say kindly because Finns are perhaps among the nicest people (no bias intended) on earth. I’ve only had occasion to visit twice, and hope to visit more than once more in my lifetime, but while visiting I did notice a general tendency to prepare for worst-case-scenarios. My own family leans in this “prepare for the worst” direction and when visiting Finland, I wondered if my own pessimism might not only be a personal quirk but also a cutural tendency.
I’ve often justified the dark cloud that has sometimes hung over my head as “being realistic.” The problem with my version of being realistic is that it often collides with Kingdom principles of believing the best, hoping for the best, and enduring all things (1 Cor. 13:7). The sense gained from reading 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter” of the Bible, is one of optimism, hope, and joy. While I was only seven when I received Christ, I was already pickled with pessimism – I had the ability to drain joy and expectation out of nearly every experience.
Somehow I knew, even at such a young age, God had better in store for me. I began looking for joy and hope for it seemed to me that joy and hope had much more to offer than negativity. It didn’t take long for me to discover how good it is to trust God in the face of those worst case scenarios. I learned the worst case could be turned around to be the best case.
Romans 8:28 NKJ “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Everything, the good, bad, and ugly, all come together in perfect sync when we are pursuing God’s Kingdom. This doesn’t mean that we should expect to live in some utopia free of trouble, nor does it mean that we should expect to live defeated, free of blessing. The truth lies not somewhere in between but above these two extremes.
Hebrews 6:9a NASB “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you…”
There are always better things that God has in store for us; sometimes those better things come after we have walked down the paths of dark shadows (Ps. 23) but even in the dark shadows there are tables prepared for us to sustain us in the valley.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NKJ “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
The darkness we feel that closes in on us is an attempt to snuff out the treasure we carry, but the darkness actually serves the purpose of reminding us that the glory belongs to God and not us. We’re pressed, perplexed, persucuted, and struck but none of these things can destroy us as long as we remember and are convinced of the fact that we carry the treasure.
What lies ahead is better.
Every July I turn into a hopeless romantic and this year a bit more so as we are celebrating 35 years of marriage on the 21st of July. I would say that’s a bit of a milestone, it might even be a date-night worthy event. The problem is our choice of places to go for a date night here are limited so we will likely celebrate later on this year when we travel.
As missionaries, we are obliged to travel from time to time to report to supporting churches and individuals as well as hopefully meet new contacts. It’s during times like these that we fit in those much-needed moments to devote to one another and family that we don’t have opportunity to see unless we are traveling. I realize most of the popular books on marriage and family decry our life’s rhythm – but it is what we have learned to live with and work around and somehow God has given us grace and we have lasted 35 years.
When I look back on our early history, I’m sure that we weren’t a likely couple. In fact, we were a pretty unlikely couple and our relationship must have initially surprised many. The thing that brought us, and has kept us, together was simply our desire to make it for the long haul and be in the will of God at the same time. We’ve held on when we didn’t feel like holding on, we’ve forgiven one another, we’ve raised a family together, we’ve seen more in our lifetime together than I ever thought possible. As the children are now almost all grown (one 11 year old remains at home), we find ourselves closer to one another than in our early years. Our combined and common history has created a bond that is difficult to explain and can only really be understood by others who have walked their own journies of commitment in marriage.
This weekend we are hosting a special marriage ceremony for couples in our church in Bujumubura who have not been able, for one reason or another, to be married. Most of the time, these reasons have more to do with finance than anything – having the ability to host a big party has pressured many couples to forego a marriage ceremony. While we agree weddings should be a reason for celebrating, weddings are only a one-day event and their cost shouldn’t prevent couples from living in God’s order. Marriage is supposed to last for a lifetime, not just a day. After counseling and working with these couples, we decided to host a simple but beautiful ceremony at the church for these dear people who only want to get their lives and families in order. As it turns out, the church has shown up and individuals have donated time, money, and decorations for the celebration set to take place tomorrow afternoon. The excitement is brewing and my heart is fluttering for them all – what a great day lies ahead of us!
While the decor is going to be simple, it reminds me of our day so many years ago and the high hopes we had when we stood at the altar. My mother insisted on a friend of hers playing the traditional wedding march and it was almost painful walking the aisle to the tune – it was so badly done. Looking back, I’m happy I let my mom have her way. Letting mom have her way that day was one of my first lessons in learning what was and wasn’t important. The walk up the aisle had nothing to do with the music – it had everything to do with the person waiting for me at the end who was about to commit to living with all of the craziness I was about to unload on him! That my mother had joy that day, in that moment when the keys didn’t sound totally right, was more important than having it done my way.
My way and his way have given way to what has become our way. We have developed our own way of living and serving and loving one another and it has taken a lifetime to get to this point. I suppose the lesson learned from the years behind us for those looking ahead, for those who have a lifetime yet to live, is to chase the dream of love in your marriage year after year. There comes a point in the gift of love that God gives us in our marriages that is worth the wait, that is worth the fight, that is worth every bit of crazy.
I’m so glad we hung on.
Happy anniversary month Jamie, I love you. Let’s chase the dream for another 35 years and beyond.
I couldn’t believe that I found this song online! It was sung at our wedding on July 21, 1984. #feelingnostalgic #the80s