serving vs. volunteering

Chris and I were talking this afternoon about our response to certain ministry opportunities that God has brought our way.  In all honesty, it has been hard for us to jump back into serving.  We are probably pretty cautious right now, and trying to get back on our feet.

But in this phrase, “jump back into serving”, lies an untruth that God is addressing.  Am I really serving?  Or am I just volunteering?

A volunteer is one that gets to choose when and how she undertakes a certain task.  If she doesn’t “prefer” a certain ministry at church, or doesn’t feel comfortable, or any number of reasons that one could come up with, she has the freedom to say no.

A servant is one that does the will of her master.  It doesn’t matter if she is tired, feels incompetent, doesn’t understand or is “too busy”.  When her master asks her to perform a certain task, her duty is to carry it out.  Some might say “but God gifts us to do certain tasks, and I’m not gifted in that area”.  And my answer would be “I can trust that God is going to ask me to carry out the tasks He has gifted me to do.  If He is asking, it’s because He has given me what I need to carry it out.”

And I can do this with a completely confident heart.  My master will never ask me to do something that doesn’t line up with His Word.  My master will never ask me to do something that will harm me.  It might be difficult or uncomfortable, but I am safe in His arms.  Always.  And on top of this, He is not only my Master, but a loving Father.  Which means that he gives me times of respite, He cares for my well-being and I can trust that He knows exactly what I need.

I think that finding the balance between doing it all, whether God has called me to or not, and finding a multitude of reasons not to be involved in opportunities that I become aware of, can be a difficult thing.  BUT, if I truly trust Him, I will also trust that He will give me discernment to tell these apart.

If I can trust Him for salvation, then surely I can trust Him in these matters.  And if I want to truly call Him Master, that makes me His servant.

And this means that every opportunity that comes up is not mine to sort through, choose what I want and reject what I’m not interested in.  It does mean that when God says “please take care of this for me”, my response should be “I would love to”.

If I have to choose between the ease of being a volunteer or a lifetime of servitude to the God of the Universe, I will choose being a servant.  I think that it is a decision that I will have to make every single day.  Maybe multiple times a day, but it is my heart, and I want Him to hold me to it.

[On an completely different note, I am 12 days into my Isagenix Cleanse.  I believe that I am still going through a lot of detox.  Which doesn’t surprise me with some of the medications that I am on/have been on for many years.  But, I am off my sleep aids, I am one of my prescription medications and I have a lot more energy in the morning.  Once I discovered that I wasn’t eating enough protein and changed that, my headaches are easing up and my mid-afternoon slumps aren’t so “slumpy”.  I have continued to learn a lot about how lack of magnesium affects the body and the importance of a correct pH balance for good health.  It is fascinating and I really do love learning about all this.]

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Oceans

It was September 2013 when Michaela first recommended this song to us.  Knowing that we were taking a huge step of faith, selling most of our possessions and leaving everything that was familiar and comfortable to us, she knew that it would speak to our hearts.

OCEANS (Where Feet May Fail)
You call me out upon the water,
the great unknown, where feet may fail,
and there I find you in the mystery,
in oceans deep my faith will stand 
 
And I will call upon Your name
and keep my eyes above the waves
when oceans rise
my soul will rest in Your embrace
for I am Yours and You are mine.
 
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
 
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever You would call me
take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of My Savior

 

I cried the first time I listened to the words of this song, as we were packing up and getting ready to say goodbye to friends and family and move to the other side of the country.
Tears streamed down my face a couple of months later when we sang this song in a church service, as we sought the courage to take a risk and stand up for Truth.
And then again a month later, as our hears lay open and wounded, struggling to understand how people’s actions could cause such hurt.
Four months later, as we stood in church singing this song, we found ourselves at a place of trying to grasp what God had planned for our life.  Our hearts were broken and we were completely at His mercy.
digital pictures 2006 047
 And then, we heard it again a couple of months ago.  We thought we possibly knew what God had planned for us, but in this past year, we’ve learned enough about a life of following after Him to know that it is indeed the great unknown.  If there is any peace to be had in this world, it is resting in His embrace, with our eyes fixed on Him and not on the uncertainty around us.
I’m so thankful that our dear girl and the wisdom she had in connecting our hearts with this song, knowing that it would give us the courage to live through a very difficult year.

Mark 9:24

We signed the lease for our new apartment on Thursday, May 1st.  We started moving in on Friday when Chris got home from work.

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He was thankful for this new job, and that day, he was told that the boss was thinking about making him manager of the technicians.  They told him who he would be working with the following week, and Chris was feeling good about everything.

On Monday, I was sitting in our bedroom unpacking some things and up the stairs walks Chris.  It was only around 1:00, and I thought that maybe they didn’t need to work as long that day.  He told me that they told him they didn’t need him anymore.  He asked why, and the boss said that he wasn’t going to talk about.  I can’t even imagine how my husband was feeling, but I feel like I was punched in the gut.  I wanted to vomit.  How could this be happening again?

My first thought was of Chris.  My heart was breaking for him.  My second thought was of the boys.  They have really struggled with so many things over the past few months, and it made me ill to think of telling them about yet another change.  Would they blame God?  How would they feel?

My third thought was “oh no! We just signed a one year lease!!”  I simply could not wrap my mind around what was happening.  Why didn’t this happen on Friday, before the owner signed our lease agreement?  How were we going to get the money to pay next month’s rent?  How are we going to make it?

Even though we felt like we had “nothing” when we lived with my parents, we realized very quickly that we still had the “crutches” of my parent’s home, the washer and dryer that we could use whenever we wanted, the fact that they supplied toilet paper, toothpaste and shampoo.  Now, we were very much without those crutches, and feeling very weak.

For me, some of the crutches that have been removed over the past several months are a steady job, a church family, a home, family and friends, familiar culture and weather, health insurance and the ability to buy our own food, a workable budget.  My own washer and dryer.

These things have been removed, and God is asking me to lean completely on Him.  This is not easy.

Especially today.

I sat down to figure out if we could get a cheap, used washer and dryer.  I figure we are either going to spend the money at the laundromat or on our own appliances.  I just wanted to see if we could swing it.

I probably shouldn’t have tried to figure anything out.  There is no way that I will be able to make any sense of this, or figure anything out.  It is out of my hands.  The only thing I have to lean on is the One who promises to meet our every need.

I am desperately in need of Him to work in my heart.

“Lord, I believe;  help my unbelief!!  

{God’s perfect timing…as I finish up this post, “Blessings” by Laura Story just came on.  I’m gonna post this, and then crank up the volume and listen to these words while I put supper on the table for my family.}

 

healing

It is good to write that my heart is healing.

It is resting even deeper in the love and sovereignty of God.

This morning, as I am laying here, I look outside and see the sun shining and the trees with their little green buds.  A cool breeze is blowing, and I hear birds singing and wind chimes ringing.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Snapseed(5)We continue to check days off the calendar.  Further and further from what was before, and moving one day closer to eternity. Chris has continued to put in applications at dozens of different places in Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas.  But what God has given him right now is a part-time position at Charter Communications.  It is only a three month position, but it is filling our days and allowing us to pay the bills, so we are content with that.  He has been able to continue his lessons for his Biblical counseling certificate, and I am thankful that he has had the time for that.

The boys are continuing to like this school, and I cannot even express how happy that makes me.  Alex received the first place award in his cooking class for an ice cream contest, making horchata ice cream with coffee caramel sauce.  His class does catering for the school and community, and he really likes that.

William enjoys doing air-soft with friends that also live here at the training center.  He usually plays soccer with the students here every week.  We just learned that both of the boys will be able to get their temps and start driving, so they are excited about that.  (Yikes-can’t believe that time is here already!)

Max is as friendly and talkative as ever.  He has been reading more lately, which makes this mama’s heart happy.  And whenever he gets a chance to go “air-softing” with friends from here on campus, he takes that opportunity.  Miles also enjoys going out and doing air-soft, and he has started to enjoy running.

All four of the boys have been taking turns making a meal once a week, and it is fun to see what kind of meals they choose to make and the satisfaction of feeding their family.  We continue to have good family discussions as we work through the emotions that have surfaced over the past few months.  It is a good thing to be able to talk about these things and how they relate to God, and our beliefs about Him.

My sister came home last week from Papua New Guinea, where she served as a missionary for a year.  Aside from the fact that I love being with her, laughing and talking, it is so good to hear her stories of God’s faithfulness and to see the way that God has led her step by step as she seeks to follow Him.  I cannot wait to see where He is leading her to serve next!

As far as God leading Chris and I, we are beginning to get a sense of what He may have in mind.  Just the way that He has closed doors, and reminded us of our gifts and experiences and passions, we are sensing that maybe our life from this point forward is going to be different than it was in the past.  A different career, a different place, a different lifestyle…we aren’t quite sure of the destination, but I think we are facing the right direction now.   We have ideas and hopes and dreams, but there are some pretty significant roadblocks that would need to be removed, and of course, we know that He can and will remove those in accordance with His plan for us.  I would sincerely love your prayers as we seek His intended area of ministry for us.

My heart is finally catching up with what my mind knows to be true.  And yes, there are days that there is pain and tears, but being able to go to the source of that and remind myself of the truth, I can cry and give it to Him, rather than cry and hold onto the pain.  He is sovereign and He is trustworthy and He is pouring out His goodness on me.  Resting in just those few of the beautiful truths about Him, my heart is centering on Him.  Because of His grace-His sacrifice on the cross, knowing there was no way that we could pay the penalty for our sin, we can find peace in Him.  And that’s a promise that offers healing.

“To all those who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 1:7

He Understands

Words seem to elude me.  I cannot seem to express what is going on inside of me as a result of the past few months.  I keep thinking “I’ll just wait until I’m in a better place emotionally to blog about this”.  But that doesn’t seem very honest.  I have always sought to be transparent here, and although I’m now very cautious about doing so, transparency still seems to be the best policy.

So many of you have asked me what happened and I have been waiting until I can separate myself emotionally from all that occurred, but that is not happening.  I find myself becoming more and more distrustful of people, wanting to hide away from everyone and everything, having a hard time thinking about investing in relationships anymore.  And that isn’t good.

I know that God created us all, as the body of Christ, for each other.  The spiritual gifts that He has bestowed on Chris and me tell us that He particularly wants us involved in people’s lives.  And I can’t very well be involved in people’s lives if I am hiding in my home.

Several of you have asked what happened, and why we had to move.  I can’t go into all the details, but maybe this will help you understand a little better the path God allowed us to walk these past several months.

When Chris lost his job at the end of August, we knew that God was opening up a door for us to move into some kind of ministry.  We prayed sincerely for His will and He led us to become house parents at a children’s home in Arizona.  We have had many kids come into our home and our hearts over the years, and we were excited to invite more in.  We were told that they simply wanted us to raise these boys like we would raise our own.  And so we jumped in wholeheartedly with both feet.

We loved being house parents to the ten boys we had, plus our own four.  They received hugs, love , prayers, time in God’s Word and more love.  We began to see, though, where our convictions about raising children didn’t line up with the philosophy of the home, and so at the end of January, when we shared this with them, they told us they felt it was time for us to move on.  So many unexpected things transpired over the weeks that followed, that it still seems so surreal.

My heart and mind have played reruns of these events over and over and over.  I’ve asked God what I did wrong, what I could have done different, what I would do the same…   But in my heart, I know that we spoke the truth with a sincere heart.  When we had our 90 day review, we completely expected that some good dialogue would come out of our questions.  We truly believed that we would be able to work together to find what God’s Word said about our concerns.  We did not do it out of spite, or a sense of “our way is the only way” or to stir up trouble.  We did it because we love those ten boys {that will forever have a place in our hearts, and a home if they should ever need it}, we want what is best for them, and most of all, we wanted to be true to the convictions that God has given us.

God used those circumstances to move us from Arizona to Roach, Missouri.  My parents work here at a missionary training center, and they have graciously shared their home with us.  Chris is still looking for a job.  He has put in applications here in Missouri and in Indiana, but has found temporary work here in Camdenton while he awaits a more permanent position.  He has had moments of discouragement, but for the most part has demonstrated great faith and confidence that God has a plan for us.  The way that he has loved me and comforted me in the midst of my tears and doubts has been absolutely precious to me.

The boys are settled in their new schools and really liking it.  They have plenty of space to play outdoors here.  They get to play walleyball and soccer every week. They are making friends and feeling like this is home.  We’ve had several sharing times around the table after dinner, (that we lovingly refer to as “Walton moments”) where the boys have been able to share some of the issues they are working through.  I think these times are so good for them.  It is safe place for them to work out all that is in their hearts.

I spend my days quietly.  My parents spend a lot of time down at their office, and now that the boys are in school and Chris is at work, I have the house to myself.  I’ve been working on sorting and backing up all the pictures on my computer.  And I usually make lunch for my mom and dad and myself.  I spend some time reading every day, which has been really nice.  My back has been pretty bad since I overdid it while packing and moving.  It is hard to not be able to do all the things that I would love to do, but I am slowly getting better as I am being careful and wise about what I do.

I have really enjoyed getting to cook for my family again, and have been taking advantage of the cool days to make lots of soups, which we didn’t really eat a lot of while we were in Arizona.  Today, William turns 16, and he requested quite the birthday meal.  His meal is starting with an appetizer of nice olives and roast garlic with crusty bread.  Then we’ll eat lobster and shrimp fettuccine with roasted Brussels sprouts on the side, with sparkling apple juice to drink.  Followed by flan for dessert, and then a movie together as a family.  I love getting to have special meals like this one, and I really enjoy taking care of my family by preparing meals for them!

I am very thankful that God is a patient God.  I am not angry at Him, and I do believe that He is sovereign.  I believe that He used some circumstances out of our control to move us, and His reasons are (as of right now) His own.  He will share them with us in His perfect time.

Right now, I am okay with being alone.  I have been blessed with so many dear and wonderful friends.  True and honest friends.  Friends that I can count on being honest with me, and friends that have proven that they are who they say they are.  I think I would be completely content if I never had to meet a new person again.  I just want to stick with the people that I know and love.  The ones that I know are trustworthy.  I just don’t know that I can trust my judgment.  I’m afraid I will trust the wrong person, or that I will love someone, only to have that person cut off from me.

This is the struggle of my heart right now.  There are so many Truths and Promises that my mind knows, but my heart is just a bit wounded and is lagging behind, trying to catch up.  I know that it will heal in time, and my mind and my heart will be in one accord.

Until then, I am completely at His mercy and just living one day at a time.  I often can’t even find the words I want to say to Him, but when I can’t find the words to explain the hurt, the betrayal, the confusion, and the weariness, I remember who I am talking to.

And I remember that He, more than anyone else, truly does understand.

And today, resting in that is enough for me.