During our Spiritual Retreat last week, we had our Pastor-to-Missionaries and his wife come to share and fellowship with us. It was so wonderful to see them. We were able to know them through a few visits with them before we came to Brazil, and really appreciate them. Both of them have gone through very difficult trials with the crisis in their daughter's health. You can see more of her testimony through this link. http://www.charitygeorge.com/ Charity and her husband were preparing to become missionaries with Avant, when she started feeling very sick. Within a week (more or less) she had lost most of her ability to walk, speak, eat. This was three years ago and the journey has been very difficult. We've prayed with them along this excruciating journey from the beginning and have followed their pain and progress. But this time, they were able to share with us about their way of dealing with the pain, of their understanding of God through this trial.
It was a blessing and a challenge to me. They spoke of many things that touched my heart, including their purposefulness in holding onto God and remembering His promises and His character in the face of trials. But one of the biggest things that stuck out to me was their definition of joy--contentment not happiness. I've always known about it not being happiness, but had never been able to figure out what it really was.
I've been writing about how I believe the Lord wants me to grow in joy and not really knowing how. When we came back from Fortaleza on Thursday night, we found the house taken over by birds. There was bird-poop, nest makings and feathers on every surface, besides a dust-storm load of dirt and debris. They'd even broken through the concrete Todd put up on top of the walls to block their access to the inside of the house. Here are some pictures of what we came home to.
Our living room floor and couch
The bird-nest fixings that fell out
This was what I swept up from inside the house!
It was down-right infuriating and discouraging. I've already struggled with living with the dirt in a house that has no ceiling, but this was too much. If I could have moved that very minute, I would have. But we can't. We're committed, at least for several more months to live here--no contract, just financially and with the constraints of circumstances.
So, I come back to the fact that God wants me to learn to live with this trial, to learn to be content even in a very difficult living situation. I keep thinking that all the women around us live like this their whole lives, what's wrong with me that I can't seem to deal with it at all. Even the other missionaries on our field have done it before and seem to think it's something you just get used to. But I've cried more in the last 2 months, than the whole rest of the time we've been in Brazil. It's not just the dirt, but also a feeling of isolation, feeling stuck or locked into my home, not having the freedom I'm used to because I can't drive and there's really very few places to go.
So, I've asked the Lord to supernaturally give me contentment and joy in these circumstances. I'm empty of it, but I know it is a fruit of the Spirit, He is the One that puts that fruit in us, but I must learn to exercise it and use it. So that's what I'm asking the Lord to do. Fill me with His Spirit, help me to grow in Him, and give me the joy and contentment that He wants for me. And in the process, I need to stop complaining and look around me. I need to find ways of dealing with the dirt, with the feeling of being closed in and locked up, and reach out to the people He's called us to and not focus on myself. Most importantly, I need to focus on my relationships-- with the Lord,my daily walk with devotions and prayer; with my husband, conversation and partnership; and with my children, loving and teaching them, spending lots of quantity time with them.