When God says be still, you listen…

It’s been three months since I sat down to write. After coming back from Jamaica my head has been in a whirl spin and I’d like to say that it’s stopped, but I can say that it’s getting better. Let me bring you up to speed and share with you my amazing God story of my time while I was gone.

Let’s back it all the way up to the end of July when I left for Jamaica, my second home!

If you have followed my blog or know me at all you know that I went to Jamaica a year before on my first mission trip and truly had the best time of my life. I got to spend a week with Jesus like I had never experienced before and it truly changed me. When the opportunity to go back this past summer came up, I didn’t even hesitate and began the journey of preparing myself to go back to the place that holds a special piece of my heart.

The months leading up to this trip were different. My expectations were different. The team that I would be going with was different. I was different, and I had no idea what God had in store for me.

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Me, John and Kimberly

I remember clearly sitting on the plane next to my friend John (our team leader) and his wife Kimberly talking about my feelings surrounding the week ahead of us. I told them that the year before when we had all gone, it was an adventure of firsts for me. The first time I was going on a mission trip, the first time I was flying on a plane, the first time I was leaving the country, the first time I was going to get to see the ocean and so much more. It was exciting in ways that I will never truly be able to explain and I knew that I had already experienced all of that, so what was going to happen this time?

I am a very observant person and like to tap into everything going on around me, especially the hearts and minds of those on the team that was going with us this year. I spent months watching them all prepare for this trip and got to see the many different areas that God was already stretching them and growing them, I could see the areas that they were struggling with and what God was probably going to teach to them while they were there. My excitement for them was over the moon and I could not wait to experience it all alongside them, the only problem was that I could not see what God had in store for me too. I told John that I was going into it with completely different expectations than the year before because I already “knew” what to expect. Of course, I knew it would be different and I knew it would be amazing, but I still just could not wrap my head around my purpose this time and I was eager to find out what it was, and God did not disappoint but instead, had a hilarious way of showing me.

As we started the trip I was pretty much just going through the motions and thriving off the excitement of all the first-timers that were with us. When we got into Harmons, I was so happy to be back home and crazy excited to see all my friends that I had missed terribly over the last year. In my journal after the first night I wrote:

Jesus, I am back in Harmons! I feel like I am home in a lot of ways, but I am so physically uncomfortable that I cannot seem to let go and just be here…I am having a hard time clearing my head, but I am looking forward to tomorrow.

I won’t go into details, but from the moment I got off the bus and stepped back into the Harmons house after a day of traveling, I just did not feel good and it was wearing me down, so I was ready to go to sleep and wake up with a fresh attitude and be ready to take on the world. But little did I know…

While in Harmons you get to immerse yourself in the community and create a community in the house for the week that you are there with the other missionaries that are there too. During the week, we spend different moments of the day in devotional and there is usually a “theme” for the week if you will and for this week the theme was; being still. Ironically enough, if you know me even just a little bit, you know this is something I struggle with on many different levels, so I just knew this week was going to be challenging for me and I was a mix between excited and not so excited to find out how.

Monday morning, I wake up and I roll over to get out of bed and as I go to stand up, I can barely move. My back decided that it did not want to let me bend and if I forced it to, then I was going to be in a world of pain. If you have gone through any kind of back pain at all, I know you are feeling sorry for me right now. But if you have not, at the very least you can imagine how upset I was, not just because I was in pain but also, because we were about to start our first day of hard labor and I could barely walk. We were literally about to go on a two-mile hike up and down steep hills to see the community and putting one foot in front of the other was miserable for me, sending a sharp pain through my spine with each step that I took.

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At the end of our walk ’bout the community – The Harmons sign

I was furious, to say the least, but, I could not let this consume me and I knew I had to keep pushing forward and set the pain aside so I could see what God had in store for me. I just had to.

On day two we had our first large group devotional and the word of the day was; still. At this point, nearly twenty four hours in to being in Harmons, between my back and the theme of the week, hearing the words be still just sort of made me a little angrier than I already was, however, I knew there was a reason for it and I knew God was up to something big and I was honestly trying to just be still and listen. That morning we learned;

We were made to be human-beings not human – doings. We learned this through the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42

Psalms 46:10 teaches us to “Be still and know that I am God”.

In my journal later that day I wrote:

So, I’ve been still today God! But I have tried with everything I have, to push it out of my mind, and focus on you and all the wonderful people around me. I’m still trying to figure out what is going on here. Maybe I’m not supposed to know, but for now, I am going to continue focusing on being still and see what it is that you have in store for me.

In this humorous event, I was finding myself in, God and the forces of the universe thought it would be just a little bit funnier if they put me on maul haul for two days in a row, with a back that was out of commission. You probably guessed that this just fueled my anger, and you are right it so did, but the beauty in these two days was getting to meet my very special friend Dean and how God used him to change my heart.

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Dean and I

I’ll have to tell you about Dean another time when I have his permission to do so, but for now, just know that I am so very thankful for his friendship and that God chose to use him to get through to me. What is hilarious about this choice is that Dean and I did very little talking over those two days, I ended up giving him the nickname “Mean Dean” because of how little he liked to talk to me, yet he was anything but mean, and instead of talking I fell in love with his heart and his love for God through his writing. He taught me so much about simplicity and just having a relationship with God and the wonders of His love and it is something I will always look back on and cherish.

Later that evening when we got back from working and going to the infirmary I wrote this in my journal:

Today was a much better day Jesus. Today was also a much harder day, emotionally. I’ve been trying really hard to be still and see what it is that you have for me. I feel so out of place being still, it is definitely not something that comes naturally to me. But in the midst of it all, you have shown me so many beautiful things…I feel like there is a big shift going on inside of me and I am really nervous to find out what it is…

Oh yeah, on day three of our large group devotional our word of the day was; simplicity. We were asked, “what types of things do you do to busy yourself”?

God really has a way of showing up and showing out when He wants to.

Day four was when things got serious. Our word of the day was; contentment. We studied these verses very closely: Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last, you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Then we were asked: How can we become content?

It was in that moment that God told me, that I can have all of the desires of my heart and He knows exactly what they are and when I am still and listen to Him, that is when He can reveal them to me. My contentment comes from Jesus, being at home with my boys, being a good wife to my husband and just living my life abundantly for the Lord. But there I sat confused. I asked Him how? I have an amazing job that I cannot leave, working for people that I love and that have been so good to me. I have bills that have to be paid and unless we got rid of a lot of things in our lives, we would not be able to meet those needs if I left my job. I do not understand. But then he said, yes you can because you can do all things through me.

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What it looks like to just be still, you miss the small stuff when you are moving too fast.

Later that day we went to work and I honestly don’t remember everything that happened that day now, because my head was spinning from this revelation that God had given me. When we got in from our worksites and went to clean up I bent down to pick something up and stood back up in astonishment. I ran out into the room with the other girls in our dorm and started bending down to touch my toes and popping back up. Just like that, my back was healed. All of the pain was gone and I could bend and jump and twist and do anything I wanted to like nothing had ever happened.

Message received.

Later that evening in my journal I wrote:

It hit me like a ton of bricks today! I almost don’t want to write it down for fear of all that it entails, but I am so excited! I am most looking forward to being with my children again, changing our household in ways that I have only dreamed of before. I’m truly at a loss for words, so for now, I am going to continue to be still and listen, because a lot is going to go into me quitting my job and going back to being a stay at home mom!

Did you just read the same thing I did?

Psalms 37:4 tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

The best has yet to come.

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The face of a happy girl, a content girl.

Now that I am on this insane high from this crazy week of God physically sitting me down and forcing me to be still and then telling me that I could have the desires of my heart if I would just trust Him, I am kind of freaking out. I have to go home and tell my husband that while I was gone for a week, God told me to come home and quit my job, although I do not have a clue how that is supposed to work out for us or what that will look like, I have to listen to Him because He’s my daddy and He said to do so.

I decided that I was going to wait until I was in person to tell him because it was only right to lay something that big on him face to face. But God had other plans…

Saturday evening when we got to Mobay, I called my husband and spoke to him for the first time in a week, so I’ll save you the sappy I love you and I miss you and get to the good part.

He says: So, guess what happened this week while you were gone?
I say: I have no idea, what is it?
He says: Oh, nothing. My boss got offered a new job and will be leaving in a few weeks.
I say: Oh yeah, that’s nice. Is this a good thing?
He says: Yeah, and you know what that means right?
I say: No, what?
He says: That I am getting a promotion.
Wait, what?
Hold the phone.
Did he just say what I think he said?
I say: Well, in that case, I have some news for you too.
He says: Oh yeah, what’s that.
I say: God told me to quit my job this week. It’s a long story, but I am supposed to go back to being a stay at home mom and it looks like you are getting a promotion so it’s all good baby. Ha!
He says: Haha alright, we will have to talk about this a little bit more but I’m okay with that, I trust you…

You guys! If this week wasn’t already enough of God doing big God things and I had not already seen and experienced all that I can handle, He goes and does this.

The entire week that I was away, He was working everything out for my good.

Speechless.

Hillary Scott said it best in her song, still.

I believe that you are God alone, but sometimes I still try to take control. Cause I get scared when I can’t see the end and all you want for me is to let go. You’re parting waters, making a way for me. You’re moving mountains that I can’t even see. You’ve answered my prayers before I even speak. All you need for me to be is, still.

Going back to work the following Tuesday was hard for me. I had to sit my boss down, this woman that I love and care for deeply and that has been such a huge part of my life for the last three years and that has stood by my side through some really hard times and some really great times, and tell her this crazy amazing, but so difficult thing. That God had asked me to go be home with my babies and that in the months to come I was going to transition out of the workplace and back into my home and I had no idea what to expect or what He has in store for me, but that I know in my heart that it is what I am supposed to do and that if I obey Him, crazy beautiful things are going to happen to me and for me. I also knew that in the same way, He has prepared this for me, that He wouldn’t leave her without something else beautiful to replace me and I fully believed that He did. Which is another story for a different day…

Today, I have been back home for nearly a month.

The past couple of months, transitioning out of my job and back home have not been the easiest and quite honestly have not been full of sunshine and rainbows. However, I know that I am in the center of God’s will for me and that as long as I continue to trust Him and listen to the plans that He has for me that He will continue to work everything out for my good.

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them – Romans 8:28 NLT

I still feel crazy, not knowing what the future holds. But I know that I am exactly where I need to be and that God has something huge in store for my family. All it is going to take is for me to be still.

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart

The problem with missionaries

Last year I was blessed to go on a mission trip to Harmons Jamaica with my local church and a group of 9 others. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. That’s why this year whenever the opportunity presented itself to not only go on another mission trip but go back to the place where my heart was truly transformed, just a short year before, it was a no brainer for me. I leave in just under two weeks to go back and every day that we get closer to boarding that plane, the anticipation is growing inside me like a deep hunger that before last year, I never knew existed.

Before going on a mission trip last year, I have always wanted to do so and even started to join a group a time or two but never followed through for one reason or another. As the years have gone by I have looked at mission trips as a distant desire that maybe one day would be a reality for me, but I honestly didn’t see it happening and was growing more comfortable with the idea that it never would.

It wasn’t until last year when I started preparing to go to Harmons that I started to see how the world, not as a whole, but on a much larger scale than I realized, viewed mission trips overseas. I’ve read some articles that quite frankly missed the entire point altogether and really made missionaries look like bad people. Can you believe that? A person traveling to any location, whether it be local or in another country, to help others, is seen as a bad person. Totally blew my mind and flabbergasted me. Not only did I find articles on the matter, but the more I shared my upcoming journey with others that I know and love, I too found out that they felt the same way.

Why would you go to another country to help others and share your love for Jesus when there are plenty of people in your own back yard who need help and need to hear about Jesus?

I’m not going to support you going out of the country to “serve” God when you can do it in your own back yard, you can leave me out of it.

You need help raising funds to go on a mission trip to another country, well raise it yourself, you made a choice to go then you should make the money to support it.

I’m not going to lie. Hearing stuff like this come out of the mouths of people that care about you and that you care about most, hurts. Mostly because I feel that someone should know my heart and me as a person to know why I would want to go do something like this and even at the end of the day if they don’t entirely believe in it, support me simply out of love and their trust that if it is something I feel strongly about then nothing else should matter.

Here’s the thing. I think we should be missional in every area of our lives. In our homes, in our back yards, throughout our communities, across our country and overseas. I do not think there is a boundary, time or a place that it is not okay to be missional and ultimately further the kingdom of God. I fully believe in; if there is a need to be met and I can meet it, then I should. I would want the same done for me. I do want the same done for me. I pray that God uses me as His vessel every day and that I have the courage and heart to answer Him when He calls.

As I stated before, God has been tugging on my heart for years to go on missions and to do so overseas. I’ve pushed that away and ignored it for a long time simply because I did not think that I could. But last year, sitting in church that December morning when our pastor announced the trip to Harmons and the need for a team. The Holy Spirit told me, go. After the service was over, I looked at my husband and said, I am going, God told me to. He looked back at me and said, go for it, it’s about time…and I did.

The mission trip itself was a week long, eight days if you include traveling, Sunday to Sunday, a small blimp of my life in comparison to anything else. From the moment I signed up until the day that I boarded the plane for the first time was six months, equivalently 182 days. Day 1, the moment I put my name on that list and I said yes to the Holy Spirit, God started working in me in a way that I never knew was possible. Some days were more profound than others, some days were full of battles and attacks from Satan that would be enough to make any person run in the opposite direction. But on day 182, when I stood in that circle with my team praying before we left the church, and then for the next 7 days to follow, God was opening my heart to secrets that I never knew. I walked hand in hand with Jesus for 7 days with no distractions, basking in perfect love and that is something that I would never trade for the world (or anyone in it telling me that I should).

You go on a mission trip to help others and to share your love for God and His love for the world with anyone who is willing to listen if the moment presents itself. But what I have learned is that God did more for me, changed more in me, taught me more about my heart and who I am because of Him in that week and all the months leading up to it, than I ever thought was possible in my journey to “help someone else”. He taught me more about my life, my behaviors, the world we are living in and what I can do to make a difference in those short seven days than He or anyone else did on building houses or standing in a line handing out food.

I won’t pretend that going to Jamaica is filled with a week worth of saving souls and giving back to the poor through some great need that we can fill that would completely go unnoticed if we didn’t because it’s not. It’s filled with a week of building relationships with strangers and falling in love with them over a course of 7 days. It’s building two houses for said strangers while getting to know them and their family and their culture and their love for God. It’s taking a ton of donations with us to attempt to stock a store that caters to the community with normal items like clothes, shoes, and toiletries and barely making a dent in their needs, but doing the best we can with what we can and knowing that God is going to multiply in tenfold. It’s spending a day with the lost and forgotten in a place where the sick or homeless go to die, and putting a smile on their face by just simply loving them in the moment for who they are and everything that you have that is inside you. It’s leaving my home, my children, my job, and all my comforts to attempt to be a good steward for our Lord and allow Him to use me as a vessel in whatever way that He sees fit, and if at the end of the week I do not see an ounce of evidence of a job well done, I will still be satisfied in knowing that I am just a seed planter and God is the ultimate harvester and what seeds I plant for His good, He will grow. It may not manifest itself today, it may not manifest itself for ten more years, but it is all a part of His plan and I am just thankful to be used in it.

 

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Photo Creds: Tony

 

As I sat down this morning to do my morning devotional out of the book Jesus Calling He affirmed this for me.

Seek My face and you will find all that you have longed for. The deepest yearnings of your heart are for intimacy with Me. I know because I designed you to desire me. Do not feel guilty about taking the time to be still in My presence. You are simply responding to the tugs of divinity within you. I made you in My image and I hid heaven in your heart. Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness. Longing for your true home in heaven. Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me whole heartedly you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
—Psalm 42:1–2

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
—Psalm 34:5

So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
—Philippians 2:15

My desire to be intimate with God is greater than anything in this world and if I can find that intimacy with Him in a week in Jamaica, you better believe I am going to take it!

Stay blessed,

Beautiful Southern Heart