It has been at least a couple years since I've written anything here. So much has happened. The lows have been very low. Burnout, depression, anger and disappointment. So I avoided writing because I believe in the teaching, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all." But there have also been many highs. Levi, furlough, fellowship with believers, knowing people love us and are praying for us.
I have to say that this furlough did not go as planned, or shall I rephrase that, as I planned. God knew all along what His plan was and it was beautiful, but I sure didn't know the future, and I was pretty upset with the way God was doing things.
Our last year in Brazil was difficult. We had setbacks in ministry, we were straining on our finances, we were tired and ready to come home and couldn't just yet, we had a toddler. I was so looking forward to a year in the States. A year of rest. Some conveniences, some comfort. Our own little haven of rest. Family and Friends. Church. Lots of church and fellowship and singing in English. I dreamt of the kids having the opportunity to have a true American summer participating in sports and swimming, hanging out with their cousins. I had planned to get some of my long-term medical issues, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and other hormonal imbalances, taken care of and work hard on losing weight and getting into shape. We had planned our visits to different supporting churches across the U.S. to be spread out so it wasn't too stressful on the family.
The first month in the U.S. was a time of rest. We didn't contact too many people. We just needed to sleep. I was so exhausted. We were living with Todd's parents and they were so kind to us.
Then February 24th, I went to the doctor to start the process of getting my hormones evaluated and try to get my PCOS under control. As a matter of routine, they had me pee in a cup as I was checked into the office. When the doctor came in, she asked me what my concerns were and I started explaining my history of PCOS and infertility and that I wanted to find a way to balance my hormones. Then there was a knock on the door, and a nurse handed her a piece of paper. I waited for her to leave and continued my explanation. The doctor looked at the paper and said, "You're pregnant." I just kept talking, it didn't register. She interrupted me and said, "No, I don't think you understand. You're PREGNANT." "It's impossible!", I exclaimed. And she said, "After four kids, I think you'd know how it works by now."
Needless to say I didn't continue to go to that doctor. Her bedside manner left much to be desired. But what started that day was the beginning of the turmoil in my desires, a series of realizations that all my plans and wants were not going to happen. I was so disappointed. Instead of the rest and spread out travels, we needed to push them all together. My kids didn't get to participate in sports, they only got to swim for one month. I wasn't able to concentrate on getting healthy and in shape. I spent most of my time going to doctors because of my high risk pregnancy. I even had some hemorrhaging which led to a month on bed rest, right at the beginning. Can you hear the complaining in my spirit? I was awful! I was already upset that we hadn't been able to find a place to live without living with someone, and now this!
But then as the year went by, I started seeing why God allowed the timing. First of all, I can't even imagine life without Levi now. He is such an important part of our family. We got to spend wonderful times, almost the whole summer, with my parents in Maine, getting to know them and our family better, and also developing a deeper bond with our supporting churches there. Living with Todd's parents was so good for us. Little did we know that Todd's dad would be promoted to glory. If we hadn't lived with them, the kids wouldn't have developed such a bond with him. If we hadn't had our travels pushed to the beginning of our furlough, we wouldn't have been around when Todd's family needed us the most. We were already planning to be in Brazil. What if that had happened! And to top if off, Bob got to meet Levi.
Another benefit from not living in our own place during this furlough was with my attitude. I believe I would have become much too attached to the U.S., to living here. The Lord used our "nomad life", as a dear friend called it, to keep my affections, my heart, in Brazil.
God used many situations and opportunities to encourage us. He brought fellowship, encouraging prayer times, counseling opportunities, a beautiful camp experience and a homeschool conference, besides our encouraging meetings with churches and our fun side-trips during our travels. This furlough has been a real blessing.
This morning as I was doing my devotions Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18: 3-4). I was pondering what it takes to "become as little children" in God's eyes. Jesus gives us a clue when He says that we need to "humble [ourselves] as this little child". Jesus was addressing the heart issue of the disciples, their desire to be great.
Isn't that what we all desire? I know that's what I want. I want to be a great wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, missionary, friend, homeschool teacher, ad nauseum.... There's nothing necessarily wrong with wanting to do well in the tasks God has given us. Actually, God wants that. What He doesn't want is for us to try to do it in our own strength, following our own means, and insisting on them.
The question is, "How do I become like a little child?" The answer comes in observing children. I have four of them, so it should be easy. What are the characteristics of a good parent/child relationship?
First of all, children need parents. Their needs, their well-being, is wrapped up in the provision and care of the parent. Do I need God? Yes! Absolutely! But do I act like I need God? Do I act like my well-being is wrapped up in God? Do I look for Him to provide my needs or do I try to do that on my own? One of the reasons I faced burnout was because I was trying to do it all on my own, in my own strength, in my own wisdom. How does that need to change? What will it look like in Brazil when we go back. Honestly, I'm completely overwhelmed with the prospect of homeschooling and caring for two little ones, while maintaining our house, cooking from scratch, and all the ministry things that need to be done--teaching Sunday School, developing the Princesses program, visitation and evangelism, etc. But I need to remember the priorities God has given me. My marriage, my family and my health need to come first. Then homeschooling. Then ministry, then cooking, then house. So how am I going to deal with it. Can God supply my needs in this area? I believe so. I need God to take care of this. And so I lay all of these concerns at His feet.
Secondly, children know their parents. They spend their childhood years, studying and imitating their parents. Everything they've learned, or most at least, are from their parents. I think of the sponge that Lily and Levi are at this age. They watch us. They study our emotions, our reactions. If I startle at something, Levi will respond by getting startled or crying. When we talk with him, he responds. He's figured out that conversations are a back and forth between people. And Lily, Todd always says, is my "mini-me". She is a very empathetic child. She feels what others are going through. Her most common question is, "Mom, are you okay?" Do I study God? Do I spend time getting to know Him? Am I trying to imitate Him? This is hard to admit, but I have really struggled with having a consistent time in the Word and prayer. With all the babies and ministry, trying to exercise and all my other responsibilities, God took the back seat. Then I was kinda mad at God. I didn't want to admit it, but I was, and that made spending time in the Word a very convicting activity. So I avoided it. I still struggle with finding the time, with making it a priority, but I'm definitely on the right track now. And God is so good. He's forgiven me and has welcomed me with open arms. Now, my goal needs to be to study God, to try to me more Christ-like, to imitate Him as His little child.
Thirdly, parents expect children to obey them. Just the nature of a parent/child relationship requires obedience. When a parent sees a car coming down the road and sees their child running to get the ball that went flying out into the road, he expects his child to stop when he yells, "Stop". I know that's extreme. But isn't that one of the reasons we require obedience in the little things, "Go get your shoes," so they will know to obey when it's the most important? Isn't that why God requires our submission and obedience to His will? If we practice obedience in the little things, we will obey Him in the big things. If we can't be faithful in the little things, will we be faithful when it's really important?
Finally but not lastly (because there are many other ways that we need to be like "little children"), children trust their parents. They know that their parents want the best for them. They know that their parents love them and will do anything to protect them, to direct them, to provide for them. And they know that even when they don't understand what is going on, or why something is happening, that it is all right because mom and dad are there with them, or because mom and dad will help them through it. They trust their parents because they are Mom and Dad?
Is that how I act with God? Do I trust Him completely? Do I trust Him as my Abba Father? Do I trust that my well-being, my growth, my good is His goal? I know the truths of Scripture. I know He allows only good to come to those who love Him. I know his name is Abba. I know that He only gives us things that will be for my growth. I know He'll supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. Then why did I rail against God when He didn't give us a place to live? I honestly believed it was the best thing for our family. I prayed earnestly for God's provision for over a year. I trusted He would do it. And honestly he did. But only when we needed it. He gave us a place to live when we came back from Maine, in preparation for Levi's birth and we've lived on our own for over six months now. But He had a purpose in having us live with others for the first 7 months, and I know now that it was good. Obviously this is a big one for me. This is a long paragraph. But the question I ask myself is this, "Was I trusting God in Brazil?" Did I know that all He allowed was for my good, that He had a purpose in it?? And how will I proceed now in ministry. God has shown me unequivocally that He is trustworthy and even if I don't understand why or how in the world He's going to do it, I can trust Him.
He will supply our support needs; He already is little by little in His way and timing.
He will help me grow in my walk; He will remind me to make Him a priority and help me to understand and trust Him more and more.
He will supply my need for help and strength in our life and ministry in Brazil. He will grow the church, in His timing, helping us reach people for Christ, one person at a time, as we live one day at a time in obedience and trust in Him.
He will protect our family. And even though I fear something bad happening to us, I know He will be right there with me, helping me through it. I don't need to live in fear anymore, because I know the One who loves me and He is trustworthy and good. He is with us every step of the way.
So how are you "becoming as children"? Do you trust God? Are you trying to do things in your own strength or depending on God? Are you spending time studying God so you can be more like Him? Are you living in obedience?