God has been stirring a lot of things in my heart lately. As with most journeys though, the prospect of "starting" has been a bit daunting. A little background:
1) I have known Jesus my entire life. I can literally remember sitting in the front seat of my mom's silver station wagon at the age of 3 or 4 years old and asking her how I'd KNOW that when I died I'd go to heaven. (May seem like a strange thing for a 3-4 to talk about, but when your life is surrounded by prayer, prayer meetings, church, grace, people reading the Bible, a Father who could ALWAYS be found reading his Bible with a glass of orange juice and buttered toast in the morning, you're going to get there something much bigger than you DOES exist) My mom told me that I just needed to ask Jesus into my heart. So I closed my eyes, pictured a Luke Skywalker sized action figurine in my head and asked Jesus to come and live in my heart, knowing that "Luke Skywalker sized action figurine-Jesus" had come and taken residence in me. I have lived a life KNOWING Jesus ever since.
2) At a young age I came to the understanding that I was made for something big in God's plan. (Another sidenote: ALL of God's kids are made for something big. Some plant, some sow, some reap, but no function of that harvest exists without the other) In sixth grade we made a time capsule to be opened when we graduated 8th grade. One of the questions we had to answer was, "What's one thing you want to do before you're done with middle school?" My response: "To find out what God's purpose and mission for my life is". In 8th grade I read that answer and though, "Gee, I failed on that didn't I?" I share that, only to say, I have had a life seeking out the things of God, but not always heading straight into what it is that He's had planned.
3) The summer before and fall of starting my freshman year of college I became VERY sick. My appendix had burst and I had a number of complications after that which led to me be on the very brink of Heaven. I remember looking at my parents in the pre-op area before heading back for a third surgery after my appendix had burst and saying, "Hey, I want you to know that if I wake up from this, great, God still has something for me here. But if I don't, even better, because I'm done. I'm beyond exhausted and I'm ready for Heaven. I'm ready to go home." I remember waking up from surgery in my hospital room thinking, "Crap! Apparently God still has something left for me to do here! Okay, God, I'm yours because I honestly have NO strength left, and I don't get it". From that point in my life on, things have been much easier. It's good to be able to wake up in the morning and know that it's because God has purposed your days. There really IS something left for you to do, no matter how much pain exists, physically, mentally or emotionally, that air in your lungs = purpose.
4) Through college God blessed me with an incredible church where I really grew in the Lord. I realized that my grand feelings of being made for "something big" weren't just feelings, but actually insight from the Lord. I was made to pray for healing and miracles. I was made to encourage. I was made to teach, and I was made to prophecy. In realizing each of those things God had to break down walls in my heart that I had built up around those things. I had ideas of what they meant, and who God used to do them, but I was wrong. I was prideful about those gifts without realizing it, and graciously, wonderfully, mercifully God opened my heart to see and repent of those things and to gently but loudly say, "It's not YOU, it's ME! Give up allowing YOU to work, and start letting ME work." An example, I cannot heal anything. Even as a nurse, I can't heal a dog gone thing. God has set up healing measures in the midst of our bodies. I can put neosporin on a wound and a band aid over it hoping that the wound heals, believing that the wound heals, but it's not the band aid or the neosporin that heals, it's the mechanisms in the body, that God created that heal each wounded cut. It's the same in praying for someone with cancer. I can't cut cancer out, or take it away, but miraculously God can. He can heal the sick, make the lame walk, the blind see, the infirm firm. He does it, but He, the author of creation and the giver of healing wants ME to stand in the gap and PRAY, believing that he can do it NOW. It's been amazing to see the way God has healed people through prayer after that. Duh, take ME out of the equation and there is a lot less stress on saying exactly the right thing, straining enough, contorting my face enough, being loud enough, etc. Holy Jesus! He ACTUALLY still shows up and does the things he did while he walked the face of the earth! It's not about me, it's about HIS KINGDOM, and him touching other's hearts.
I was and am so thankful for the way my church in college let me step out in faith and grow in the Lord. They allowed me to step out in ministries the way I was feeling led, to try things differently, to mess up graciously, to learn and to grow. And I did A LOT of growing, learning and developing the gifts God had given me. I fondly remember those times and am so thankful for who God molded me into during that time.
5) After a season of marriage, my husband and I learned graciousness. We had left the church where I had gone to through college, and that he had gone to since he became a Christian, and we began a journey together as one seeking out the leading and direction of the Lord. We made A LOT of mistakes when we had left our church most definitely without intention but mistakes both small and large and we found that there were a lot of things we would do differently if we could. But through that difficult experience we both learned how to experience and receive grace. No, graciousness did not happen over night. It didn't even happen after we had both received and extended it, and it most certainly has not yet been perfected in us. It is SO much easier to hold a grudge, to feel entitled, to want to live in the hurt, but that is not freeing. That is not life giving, and it didn't hurt anyone but ourselves. In our hurt, we became aware of the great plank in our own eye and our great need for grace, and of our great need to extend it freely without expectation. Psalm 145:8, "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in merciful love." We both are so very thankful for that grace, and thankful every time we are able to extend it to others. Luke 7:47, "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. " Thank you Jesus for extended grace to me, that I would learn how to extend it to others.
6) Our new church was VERY different than what both of us were accustomed to, and yet we knew that we were supposed to be there. "Okay Lord, we don't get it, but we trust you!" We both come from a charismatic background, and a Vineyard background where "if you're gifted in that area, take your gift and run with it". That is very much the reason that I had grown into and developed the gifts that God put into me. I was allowed to step out in them, be it teaching, healing, prophecy or prayer and I learned a lot about what to, and what not to do. In our new church things functioned MUCH differently. Now, I say this cautiously. I'm in no way saying that one way was right, and the other is wrong. They're just different. But in many ways, Ryan and I both felt that we were taking a forced sabbatical from the constant "doing" and ministry that we'd been doing and working hard at in our previous church. And while hard, it has resulted in a greater maturity. It's easy to stand on the sidelines and be critical of ministries and people leading them when you want to operate in those things outside of the leading of God. Funny enough, Ryan and I tried doing just that by becoming involved a ministry at our church. Now, it had been about two and a half years of going through our forced sabbatical and we were getting "itchy" to do something, ANYTHING and to just start getting active in the church. So we joined a ministry, which is a fantastic ministry, went through some training and this funny thing happened. I ended up on bedrest, Ryan ended up losing his job and we had to step back. Ha! We had followed ourselves into ministry instead of God! We can look at that time and laugh now, but God sure did take us by the collar and rip us right out of the things we weren't supposed to be doing, didn't he! :) So thankful for a loving and compassionate King, honestly. What other God loves us enough to not allow us to serve Him in an area that we're not supposed to be in? My God does.
7) All of this leads me to now. I have been cautious and waiting for what it is that God has in store for our family, and for me. The 6th grader in me is again crying out, "WHAT IS IT THAT YOU'VE MADE ME FOR?!!" But the funny thing is this, I KNOW that God is taking me by the hand and standing at the door with me, next to me. He's been leading me to this door my whole life, and the last several yards I've been looking all around, everywhere but at what's through that door. I've been walking slower, hoping that this is it, wanting THIS to be it, but finally and for the first time in my life, not wanting it to be of me, from me, or in me at all. I want THIS to be what God has for me and my family. I want THIS to be what I was made for. So, this morning my four year old, Melodie, wakes up and comes out into the living room and asks me, "Mom, can we snuggle and read the Bible together?" She climbed up into my lap and I asked her what she wanted to read about, thinking that she'd say, "Oh, the lepers, or Adam and Eve, or Jesus, etc." Instead, she thought about it and said without reservation, "John 5:20". Hmm, I didn't know what John 5:20 said, I know that it wasn't one of her memory verses from school or Cubbies, sure, let's see what John 5:20 says Melodie. "For the Lord loves the Son and show him all he does. Yes, he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed." We then went on to read the entire fifth chapter, after about the fifth question of "Mom, what does "..." mean?" Melodie quietly said, "Mom, I'm sorry I keep interrupting you telling the story." My heart leapt within because I didn't mind at all, she really was wanting to KNOW my Jesus. Praise God, and thank you Lord for leading Melodie to ask to read John 5:20 this morning. I'm thankful that you've lead me to the door of the adventure you have for us and that this morning you clearly said, NOW is the time to open it! Show us what you're doing Lord! Let us ask questions so that we can KNOW what your are doing and let the "greater works" happen so that we and those around us can be amazed at our Jesus and King! We love you Lord!