Tug Of War
I have vivid memories of going to church camp. Every summer my church would pack a bus load of youth for an 8 hour drive to a camp in Oklahoma. Some of my fondest memories of being a teenager come from these week long get-a-ways from reality as I knew it. Though the design of these camps was for spiritual awakening, anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to know that I loved going for the fun. In particular, I loved the afternoon competitions that would happen between youth groups. You name it…volleyball, softball, relay races and my personal favorite, tug of war. This game, tug of war, always had an ending of one team, the losing team, slathered in mud as each losing team member couldn’t pull hard enough or hold tight enough to their rope not to be pulled past the point of no return. If you’ve ever played on the winning side you may remember the feeling of that final “heave-ho” your team gives that pulls the losing team into their final destination of a mud bath. The competitive nature in me always made sure I came out of this game clean and mud-free…(well, at least, that’s how I choose to remember it).
Recently I found myself playing a one-woman game of tug a war. As you can imagine, there was no way for me to come out of this without getting a little dirty! It wasn’t until I reached that point of no return, the part where I was loosening my grasp and losing my footing that I became aware of this internal struggle going on inside of me. You see, this tug of war wasn’t between right and wrong, and it wasn’t even between good and evil. It was about my identity, purpose and calling versus my fears.
I can’t recall how many times in this tug of war I’ve had conversations with myself that would rival any court room. On one side I have sufficient evidence that pursuing personal passions and interests has to be on hold as I tend to my most precious calling, that of wife and mother. As a rebuttal, I have a great argument that says God didn’t forget about his calling on my life when He chose me to take that great mantle of wife and mom to my amazing husband and children. Nevertheless, this debate continues as I point out to myself the great selfishness I must have in me to dare pursue dreams buried deep in my heart at the assumed cost of my children’s security, attention, and destiny. I felt there was no right answer and every time this argument began, it ended with a “hung jury”. This was until I realized that the opponent on the other side of my tug of war was fear…fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of man.
God spoke truth to my heart when he told me that His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and that it would be the revelation of His deep love for me that would bring me peace. Fear is debilitating. It causes us to not move, to be stagnant. Let’s face it, when it comes to fearing the unknown…it’s true, we don’t usually get the luxury of being told everything in our future.
But don’t fear, because we know who holds the future and His plan for us is great (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s true that many roads to success have some failures along the way, but we’re told that each suffering or hardship we encounter produces perseverance (James 5:3). And the people pleaser in me knows all too well how the fear of man can feel like I’m in chains and destroys my joyful soul, but His word says that trusting in Him will keep me safe (Proverbs 29:25). He truly loves me with an indescribable love.
I believe the enemy wants to make us think that we all have “cookie cutter” destinies. He tries to convince us that if we are really hearing from God, we would be doing what other strong believers are doing, making the same choices about our jobs, children, life groups, schools, etc. Let that thought never take root in your heart! God is a very creative God. There is no end to His thoughtfulness of you as an individual. Yes it’s true, we are all made for one single purpose…to be worshippers and lovers of Him and with that comes the same heavenly destiny…eternity! But the method God uses to accomplish His purpose in us on this earth is completely different from one another. Never take lightly when His word tells us “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:10). His divine plan for you goes beyond laundry, grocery shopping, or long hours at the office. I love that nothing is wasted with God. So be encouraged that you’re not sitting around waiting for your destiny to happen as you muddle through changing countless dirty diapers, reviewing endless lists of spelling words, or waking up at insane hours for your job’s early shift. It’s all part of the big picture with God and nothing is wasted. It may not feel like destiny is taking place, but it is. You won’t miss one plan or blessing He has for you when you walk with Him and rely on His Spirit to guide you. Nothing is wasted, nothing! As I think back on my personal tug of war, I am grateful for hope. I love in Psalm 119:116 where David writes, “uphold me according to thy word that I may live and let me not be ashamed of my hope.” I have hope in God and I am not ashamed of it! He’s my one and only hope! This hope will destroy my fears, fill me with courage, and will remind me that though I am flawed, I am loved.
I am a work in progress. This journey isn’t wrapped up in a nice little package with a bow on top that says my struggle is over. My tug of war match has not completely ended, but my grasp is tighter, my footing is deeper and I see the look of surrender in the eye of my opponent, fear. I’m ready to give the final “heave-ho” and I believe I see a mud bath in its future.
Who Am I?
It’s not unusual for our family of five to carve out time in our busy lives for “family game night.” I will admit I am considered borderline obsessive when it comes to the love of game playing. There’s rarely a game I don’t like and rarely a game I don’t win. Ok, so I admit, I’m a bit competitive as well. To be around me when game playing ensues is like watching a hibernating bear looking for it’s first meal after his winter’s nap. I’m ready and I take no prisoners! Unfortunately, this doesn’t always go over well with my young children.
It’s always a major quest to find a game that fits all of the ages of our family. Our most recent game night involved a new game called “Hedbanz.” The gist of the game is that every player wears a plastic headband around his or her head with a slot attached that holds a guessing card. The players grab cards from the pile and attach their card to their headband. The pictures on the cards are a variety of subjects from foods, animals, etc.. All of the players can see each other’s cards, but you can’t see what’s on your card. When it’s your turn, you begin asking a series of yes/no questions to the other game players to find out what or who you are. Watching a five-year old use deductive reasoning skills to determine if she’s a dolphin, a toaster or an ice cream cone provided for great entertainment. Nevertheless, this game kept us busy for most of the evening and it quickly became a family favorite.
I want you to imagine with me for a moment that we all go around wearing these imaginary “hedbanz” with cards attached that say who we are. Everyone else can see who we are, but to us, it’s a mystery. We find ourselves asking friends, family members or even strangers for that matter, a series of questions to see if we can determine from their clues who we are. We “belly up” to the metaphorical table of acceptance to receive others well-intentioned opinions about how they see us and who they think we are and then take it as fact. Unfortunately, many times this dictates how we think of ourselves and it drives many of the decisions we make. As long as the words spoken to us are what we want to hear, this seems like a great idea, but when the words are hurtful, or don’t have pure intentions we are left questioning our value. This is why at the core of the question, “Who am I?” there is only One who can answer it for you.
Since I was a child, discovering where I fit in and who God made me to be seemed to be the ultimate pursuit. As children can sometimes be cruel, I found many kids had a lot of opinions about me and none of them were very pleasant. It was around 10 years old that I remember the beginnings of being picked-on. My 5th grade yearbook picture holds all the proof. I had all the makings of an easy target…extremely short, plump, bad perm, major overbite, and crooked teeth. I’ll admit I was in an awkward stage, to say the least. Talking to me provided even more fuel for their antagonism since I had a lovely speech impediment to add to the already long list of issues. I always cringed when during the middle of class my speech therapist would interrupt the class to take me to therapy. Yep, that’s all these kids needed…more ammunition! I remember a specific instance where this “cool” group of girls enticed me to join them in a circle in the cafeteria. Unbeknownst to me it was all with the intention to mock, harass and laugh at me until they walked away and I was left rejected and embarrassed. That was a low day. Ironically it was at this same age of 10 years old that I went with my parents to a concert at my church with a traveling musician. I had prayed a prayer of salvation when I was 6 years old, but it was at this concert that I really for the first time understood that everything Jesus did on the cross...the greatest sacrifice ever made…He did just for me! I was THAT valuable to Him. I was THAT important to Him. I was THAT worth it to Him. I remember like it was yesterday the tears streaming down my Dad’s face as I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior. We bought an 8 track of the musician to commemorate the event and I think I listened to it everyday! In looking back, I believe there was a fight for my soul. At even the young age of 10, I was making choices about who to listen to and whom to believe. Whose voice was going to ring loudest in my ears? Would it be the one of my Creator, who loves me unconditionally or the voices of misguided youth?
I am thankful that somewhere in that heart of mine, I made the choice to let God tell me who I was in Him. This isn’t to say the internal struggle to be accepted by others was over. Do you think I would’ve hair sprayed my bangs two feet tall, pinch rolled my jeans and spent all my birthday money on the latest pair of Girbaud jeans if I didn’t care about being accepted? Of course I did, but I also saved myself a lot of heartache when other pressures of adolescents came my way and I didn’t succumb to their luring. I believe there is a scheme of the enemy to attack girls in early pre-pubescence. As so many things in their world begin to change, the enemy strategizes to change their thinking as well. He sees them as an easy target because at their core all they want is love and acceptance. He attempts to give them a counterfeit picture of that. Thankfully, the enemy only has as much power as we give him. Through Christ, we are able to render the enemy powerless in our lives. Though I didn’t walk perfectly or without setback in my life, I am grateful to have walked many years allowing the dominate voice leading me to be that of a loving Father and friend who loves me unconditionally and truly wants the best for me. If you have ever struggled with believing that you are all that God says you are, I want you to spend time reading the scriptures below. By no means is this a complete list, but it will help begin your journey to finding who you are in Him. Hopefully after reading God’s truth you’ll be able to take off your imaginary headband, which relied solely on others opinions of you and in turn, walk confidently knowing you are everything He says you are.
• I am a child of God.
But as many as recived Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. John 1:12
• I am a friend of Jesus.
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15
• I was crucified with Christ, and I am no longer a slave to sin.
…knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, that we would no longer be slaves to sin. Romans 6:6
• I will not be condemned by God.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
• I have been set free from the law of sin and death.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:2
• I have been accepted by Christ.
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7
• I am a new creature in Christ.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
• I have become the righteousness of God in Christ.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
• I have been set free in Christ.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
• I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
• I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God.
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:4
• I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7
• I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13
• I am seated in the heavenly places with Christ.
…and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6
• I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
• I have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
But now in Christ Jesus you, who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13
• I was formerly darkness, but now I am light in the Lord.
For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8
• I am a citizen of heaven.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
• I am loved and chosen.
…knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you. 1 Thessalonians 1:4
(format applied from article of Ken Boa)
Planes, Pains, and Automobiles
It was to be a trip to remember for my daughter and me. How could it not be…we were going to “the happiest place on Earth?” My daughter is a member of a dance company, which had been invited to participate in an “invitation only” workshop at Disney World and, in addition, the chance to dance on the Disney World stage in Downtown. It was to be an experience of a lifetime for my daughter and an earned merit badge for myself as the proud mother. Leading into this trip I found the numerous preparations a bit tedious and wondered if I had gotten in over my head. When you leave for a week with one child but leave two at home, the details to sort out can seem overwhelming. The day we had been anticipating finally arrived and off we went to the airport at the lovely hour of 5:15 in the morning. Luckily, we were sharing the early morning plane ride with dear friends so there was no lack of pure excitement to make up for the serious lack of sleep. Upon arriving at the airport, we approached the baggage check-in line and noticed it was unusually long. We were confused because after ten minutes, no one had moved. There was no immediate concern because we had arrived in plenty of time, but as thirty minutes passed and still no one had moved, we became a little anxious. Adding to our anxiety, we later heard the overhead speaker announce that our plane was in the final boarding stages while our feet were planted in the same, stationary spot in line! Our perfect trip was slowly taking on new form. Our awesome Spring Break plans were being jeopardized and we stood by helplessly. We were informed that a computer glitch was the culprit for the delay and though the airline was apologetic, they, with no hesitancy, sent our plane to Florida without the two of us and twenty-four other passengers. All the preparations and all the time and energy spent making this trip fabulous were now slipping through our fingers out of our control. Me and two other abandoned moms quickly began to brainstorm all of our options for all six of us. Due to it being Spring Break, no flights had openings on stand by. Our options dwindled down to two. The first was to catch the next available flight out, which would leave TWO days later and as a result we’d miss all of the scheduled dance performances or for our second option, we could rent a car and drive 18 hours to Florida. Remember now that I desperately want to earn my “mother of the year” merit badge, so I’m going to cue the ‘Jeopardy’ theme song while you ponder which option we chose. Yep, you guessed it, like a herd of elephants to a watering hole, we ran to the rental car terminal to see how six stranded Disney hopefuls could defy all odds and get to Florida before 8:00 the next morning. This was not part of the plan by any stretch. With all the prayers, fasting, and the tangible preparations heading into this trip I never once considered we’d be faced with such a complete disruption to our vacation. All of us moms pulled up our big girl pants, rented the only available minivan, drove out of the airport and into an eventful and memorable 18-hour journey. Gratefully, as an answer to many prayers we arrived safely onto the Disney World grounds two hours before the dance workshop. It was a long drive and I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit drove the 2:00-6:00AM shift, but nevertheless, we were there! And as Disney World promises, the rest of the week (minus the crowds) really was the happiest place on Earth. Where else can you justify double scoop ice cream cones, chocolate covered bananas and corn dogs the size of your forearm? Not to mention, the characters, shows and rides that leave you wishing a real Peter Pan would come and help you to never grow up! By the end of the trip, my daughter and I weren’t talking about the long road we took to get there (figuratively and literally), instead we were immersing ourselves in this amazing and wonderful, fun-filled place full of joyful people and happy hearts!
People walk through this world hoping for it to be an easy ride and they get discouraged, depressed and disillusioned when life doesn’t go the way they think it should. But this is not our home. We are told in John 16:33 “ In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” C.S. Lewis, one of the greatest spiritual writers of our time, states "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." So just as the road we took to Florida was hard, the place we ended up was everything above and beyond what we thought it would be. In the same way, this Earth is not the destination, so the journey we travel while we are here waiting for eternity isn’t promised to be easy, fun or catered to our preferences but the heaven we await is everything and more than we can hope for or imagine. It’s face to face with our Father, it’s eternity sitting at His feet in awe and wonder, it’s a continual celebration of the love between a bride and groom and we are promised a banqueting table to feast upon and never count a calorie! It’s heaven…literally! I can assure you that just as our few, fun days at Disney World allowed us to not dwell on the tough journey getting there, when we pass from a life constrained by time to an eternity with the Father, all the hardship and all the pain will not even be a memory to recall. Our happiest place ever awaits us and it’s more than anything your heart can dream of.
Mile Marker 271
There’s a phenomenon that happens a few months of the year. Families, who otherwise live in constant surrender to events and schedules, decide to set out on a pilgrimage of sorts, searching for new land and new adventure. It’s something we call summer vacation. The destinations may vary, but the gist is the same…pack in as many miles and see as many sites as possible all in the name of family bonding and memory making before the hustle and bustle of the school year ensues.
Our family is no exception as we clocked in over 3,000 car miles one summer spanning Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Florida and everything in between. On our family trip to Missouri we had the awesome travel experience of a 7-car caravan totaling 31 people heading to the Ozarks. This causes you to pray for miracles like safety… and super strong bladders.
Our car led most of the way, not for any reason other than my husband’s lead foot and a car full of well-bladdered children. I didn’t know being the leading car meant anything significant to me until after our car stopped for a quick restroom break. As we resumed our travels, I simply sent a text to the group to identify where everyone else was located on the road. I received a text that one of the cars was passing mile marker 271. I took notice that we were only at mile marker 265…6 miles behind them! To a normal person, this should elicit absolutely NO emotion or response. None. Zero. It should just be a matter of fact that when one car passes another, they are, in reality, ahead of the slower car. No.Big.Deal. Consequently, I discovered this day that I am not exactly normal.
Ok, so what you may not know about me is that, secretly, I’ve always believed a study on my genetic make-up would reveal distant family ties to the Andretti family. I constantly feel the need for speed (in the most legal of terms). So by us falling behind during our Missouri trip I can only describe how I felt to being in the lead of the Indy 500 and then unexpectedly experiencing a tire blow out causing our victory to dwindle from our hands. My only concern was “how can we catch them?” Ummm…sorry, did anyone else get the memo that we were racing? Isn’t this just a relaxing vacation to Missouri?
I found my competitive thoughts comical. You know the moment when you identify a quirk in yourself and all you can do is cry laugh. Instinctively, I asked God to show me if I have a hidden issue that needs healing. DUH. I didn’t ask this in a super-spiritual way, but just in the way I talk to God regularly…as a friend and a father. I was reminded that He actually likes this driven (no pun intended) side of me. “It will be beneficial for doing great things for the Kingdom,” He tells me. Whew…good. I’m glad we’re on the same page. And then He continued. Uh oh. He dropped in my heart a few thoughts of which to be cautious. He showed me that in this instance, innocently, I looked at the mile marker on the side of the road to determine how far behind our car had fallen from another. But in the same way, He showed me that I have a tendency to judge my life by other people’s “mile markers.” When I do, I begin a downward spiral of self-evaluation that leads to insecurity and disappointment as I feel I don’t quite measure up to how well others are doing. Someone is always in better shape. Someone is always smarter. Someone is always a better mother. Someone is always more gifted. Someone is always more “put together.” Someone is always…more.
We live in a culture that gauges success in a different way than God gauges success and without a constant, close relationship to Him I could have a tendency to determine my success by the world’s standards. We can all relate to times it feels someone seems to be “getting ahead.” It feels you started at the same place but somehow, somewhere, you lost site of the goal and they continued to thrive. You evaluate where you are and compare yourself to others of your age or profession and you don’t quite measure up. From where does this demeaning thinking come? Is it innate in our humanness? Why can’t I just be concerned about doing what I’ve been called to do? Why does someone else’s “mile marker” matter to me? So here’s the truth God has shown me. There have been days I literally have to saturate myself in His word to actually believe it.
God has created you to do something no one else can do because He made you special for a great purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
You are needed. You are loved. You are enough. “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3
“ For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14
God has created you for this time, in this place, with your set of gifting’s, to do great things. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
You cannot rush or delay God’s timing, but take heart; God’s timing is perfect! “For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behind hand on its appointed day.” Habakkuk 2: 3
When tempted to evaluate someone else’s life and make judgments about your own, be reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Gazed upon Jesus is where you will find your true value, calling, and purpose. He has “marked” you as His own, so leave the “mile markers” in the past.
Take That Leap
I have a childhood friend who was born February 29, 1972. That’s right, he’s a leap year baby. If you ask him his age, he’ll tell you he’s only 10 years old. Today he gets to enjoy celebrating his ACTUAL birthday on his ACTUAL day as he turns fabulous 40. The concept of a leap year fascinates me. Essentially this day is added to our calendar as a corrective measure. Here’s a little science lesson explaining leap year. The easiest explanation for having a leap year is that the earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days, so an added day every few years corrects our calendar. Without this calendar correction, within 100 years, we’d be off about 24 days! Another little fact about our calendar is that a year that is NOT a leap year is called a common year. Interesting…a leap year is for corrective measures and a non-leap year is called a common year? I see great spiritual significance through this model. How many of us have goals or dreams for our lives, whether big or small, that we just can’t seem to accomplish? Have we, little by little, gotten off track by discouragement, disillusionment or fear and we need a time for corrective measures to get us back on track? There seems to be no better time than the present…today, in fact! Isn’t it interesting that our calendar refers to the years that need corrective measures as a common year and the year that corrects our calendar is the leap year?
I want to encourage you that you are not alone; in fact, it’s common that many of us find ourselves further away from our goals than we had hoped. Whether the struggle lies in putting down the chocolate and staying disciplined to lose that last 10 pounds, letting go of a past hurt or never putting a pen to the paper to write that book that’s been on your heart, we all battle each day with defining, activating and reaching our goals. This is common. BUT this is the year to make the corrective measures and to renew your sense of determination and drive to do that one thing that feels just out of your reach…to LEAP.
It’s a little known fact that I am a thrill seeker. I can’t actually trace back to where or from whom I developed this personality trait. I identify with the idea that if it doesn’t completely terrify me, it’s not worth it. “Go big or go home”…that’s my motto. Strange, I know. Years ago, at a time I refer to as B.C. (Before Children), my life lent itself to more opportunities for thrill seeking experiences. My husband and I were living in New Zealand, (known as the adventure capital of the world), which was a perfect match for me. We enjoyed as much adventure as possible such as bungee jumping, ice glacier hiking, jet boat thrill rides, luge racing, hot air ballooning, scuba diving, sand dune boarding, and my all time favorite, sky diving. I’m sure many of my family members wondered if I had a death wish during this season of my life. The truth was that I felt that child bearing was in my imminent future and I had foresight to see that my overdriven sense of adventure would come to a crashing halt once children arrived on the scene. I was right. Well, right in a sense, there’s still adventure, just of a different kind.
I can remember like it was yesterday, me sitting on the edge of the plane over Queenstown, New Zealand. The beauty was something from a fairy tale book. I recall the knot in my stomach right before the big leap off the edge of the plane into 9,000 feet of sky above the earth. The jump was everything I had hoped for. Absolutely exhilarating for the first 10 seconds, then absolutely surreal as we soared like birds peacefully to our landing spot. In fact, once the parachute opened, I was surprised at how serene my descent was. I could actually breathe deep and take it all in.
It’s interesting that I will jump out of an airplane having no second thoughts; yet find myself terrified to actually leap towards a dream for fear of failure. What keeps us from taking that leap in our every day lives? In relation to skydiving, it could be the fear of the unknown. We don’t know that we will land unharmed or without scars or distress. Uncharted territory has no assurance of survival, so staying safe and doing what is familiar is the obvious choice we make. I liken my skydiving leap as great symbolism for what God has for each of us. What if everything great that God is calling us to requires getting a knot in our stomach because it’s stretching us past our comfort zone? What if we end up finding exhilaration in taking that leap and not the sense of terror as imagined? What if we find peace in the midst of the leap as we can breathe deep and take it all in? This is the amazing part of trusting God with our future. What is required of us is the leap of faith and then God will guide us the rest of the way. But the leap is SO important. God won’t force you. He may gently and lovingly nudge you a bit, but He will let you make the ultimate decision of how high and far you will choose to leap. Thankfully, as we leap, we have His reassurance of safety through His word.
In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
In Proverbs we are told to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” (3:5-6).
Another reminder is Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord thy God will be with you where ever you go.”
And Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
These are amazing truths to appease any apprehension toward taking the next leap toward your destiny. It’s yours for the taking if you will choose to not take the common route, which eventually requires corrective measures, and instead spend today and the next year LEAPING into all that God has for you. You can do it and it will be thrilling!
Do You Love Him?
“Mrs. Lane, we are ready for your dismissal, just sign these papers and you will be on your way.” These were the shocking words my husband and I heard three hours, yes only THREE short HOURS after a difficult and long delivery of my first child. We were living in the beautiful country of New Zealand at the time and my dramatic delivery had every element of a scene straight from the television show “E.R.” There were hallucinations, a frantic “code blue” and an actual chain contraption from medieval times pulling my child from my womb. We thought the delivery was the worst part, but we had no idea what was ahead. After the delivery we were informed that the hospital didn’t have any rooms available for us and therefore needed to transfer us to another location for my recovery. To be clear, by “transfer” I mean the hospital loaded my three-hour old infant into her car seat, which completely swallowed her tiny 6 pound frame, and then put me in the front seat as my husband drove our car to the new location 20 miles away in the pouring rain. This was no formal hospital transfer! Unfortunately what the hospital failed to realize is that I was losing an extreme amount of blood and suffering from a developed blood clot the size of a grapefruit, which rendered me unconscious by the time we arrived to the new facility. This day, which was to be one of the happiest of our lives, quickly took a radical turn in a scary and unpredictable direction. My husband watched helplessly as these unfamiliar, newly acquainted doctors ultimately saved my life. Hours later I awoke to my sweet husband stroking my hair and my newborn baby girl swaddled in blankets sleeping peacefully. Seeing my husband’s tear-filled eyes triggered a flood of emotions and my tears began to flow. I was caught between a spectrum of feelings…that of disbelief and confusion to relief and gratefulness. It could’ve all been so terribly different. I actually remember telling myself “not to go there” when my mind would begin tracking with thoughts about the “what ifs”. I truly had to stop and get a reality check to remind me that the horrible “what ifs” didn’t happen. I was alive and the dream of my husband and I becoming parents was now a reality.
Many of us can remember a time life didn’t go as planned. In fact, many of us, sadly, have experienced the “worst case scenario” of life and know what it feels like first hand to have to pick up all the broken pieces and try to make sense of them. I remember asking the Lord why the events of that day happened as they did. We had prayed fervently for my pregnancy and delivery. We had fasted. We had friends praying. We had family praying. What more could we have done to ensure that everything would go according to plan? And one day it hit me…what if everything DID go according to plan? Please don’t misunderstand; God’s plan is not to incur pain or heartbreak upon us. In fact, Jeremiah 29:11 says just the opposite, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” So I’m not suggesting the unfortunate scenario was God’s plan, but I am suggesting that as it was happening, God was infusing something good in me that would benefit me for the rest of my life…an unwavering and complete trust in Him. There was nothing about the events of that day that were in my control. We live in a broken world where imperfect things happen. I couldn’t have anticipated any of the unforeseen situations, yet God knew every one. In the devotional book, “Jesus Calling” the author eloquently writes what I believe Jesus is saying to us about trusting Him. She states,
“I (Jesus) am training you to find Me in each moment and to be a channel of My loving Presence. Sometimes my blessings come to you in mysterious ways: through pain and trouble. At such times you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me.”
Many times when life brings us pain or trouble, believing that God is good is only possible because we have resolve within us that chooses to trust Him no matter what life throws at us. In fact, embracing God’s steadfast love through our experiences is to our benefit. We are strong because He is strong. We overcome because He overcame. We don’t break in the face of adversity, instead we come out on the other side courageous, victorious and most importantly, intimately connected to the Father. Our trust in Him is paramount to us truly surrendering every area of our lives to His Lordship.
One of the true heroes of the faith, Corrie Ten Boom writes about learning how to trust God in all things, even as she loses her sister Betsie in a concentration camp.
“Often I have heard people say, "How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic, and look at the lovely weather!" Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp. I remember one occasion when I was very discouraged there. Everything around us was dark, and there was darkness in my heart. I remember telling Betsie that I thought God had forgotten us. "No, Corrie," said Betsie, "He has not forgotten us. Remember His Word: "For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him." Corrie concludes, "There is an ocean of God's love available - there is plenty for everyone. May God grant you never to doubt that victorious love - whatever the circumstances."
Her story is the epitome of trusting in God’s victorious love. We must allow our circumstances, no matter how unfortunate, to fade in comparison to the majesty and wonder of God’s all consuming love for us. He is trustworthy…with everything…all the time. So almost twelve years, three kids and one dog later, I am thankful, no doubt, that the rainy Wednesday in October of 2000 wasn’t my last day on Earth. And I am thankful to have gained an understanding about trusting God in all circumstances.
God, Service Stations, and M&M's
I was introduced to a woman who has made an indelible impression on my life, a true hero of the faith. Before I tell the story of my time spent with her, I want to first ask a simple question…have you ever wanted to be a part of the “next big thing?” For most of us, the answer is an easy “Yes.” We are conditioned to look for it, even live for it in some ways. For instance, those “fashionistas” who are completely driven by being fashion forward, to them finding the next greatest trend or fad is simply exhilarating. For the “techies” out there, euphoria occurs as you continually upgrade to the newest and best piece of technology money can buy, as it promises to be “the thing” to change your life and the world! On many levels there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the hunt for the “next big thing”, but I want to take a glance at that thought from a spiritual perspective. In our attempt to pursue God with zeal and passion, do we need to sometimes stop and ask ourselves if it’s truly the Father we are passionate about, or is it the destiny we perceive God has for us that we are really pursuing ambitiously? Tough question. I’m embarrassed to admit my dreams of attaining that “big vision or destiny” has many times disguised itself as a wholehearted, passionate pursuit of my Savior. Ouch! God began doing a pruning and chiseling of my heart to cut away anything that didn’t fully desire Him and Him alone. Recently, I had the unique privilege of meeting with a woman who has never sought the “next big thing” of ministry, yet her ministry has touched hundreds of thousands. There was never an ambition for notoriety or a drive for worldly success, she simply wanted to serve the Lord, tell others about God and obey Him in the small things. I want to share with you the incredible story of Mrs. Tillie Burgin. The first time I ever heard of Tillie Burgin she spoke at my church’s women’s conference. She came to share with us all the work being done at Mission Arlington, a ministry started by her and her husband 23 years ago which meets the needs physically and spiritually to thousands of people daily through Bible studies, outreaches, clothing donations, food supplies, counseling, and dental and medical needs throughout Arlington, TX and the DFW Metroplex. As I listened to her, I found myself completely compelled by the sweet-natured wittiness and anointed, confident words that she spoke so eloquently. I continued repeating in my head how I want to be just like her “when I grow up”. J There was something so magnetic and intriguing about her humility, her calling and her life of obedience. I knew from that moment that I had to meet her…and so I did.
“Mrs. Burgin, It is such a pleasure to meet you.” “Oh call me Tillie, everyone just calls me Tillie.” This is how my conversation began on the day I eagerly spent some time with Mrs. Tillie Burgin, one of the most inspirational, fascinating, and unassuming women I’ve ever met. She ranks right up there with my meeting Mother Teresa in 1992, and that’s hard to beat! As I walked into Tillie’s office at Mission Arlington, I couldn’t help but notice the wall-to-wall certificates and accolades that covered every space. There was the plaque recognizing her as an inductee to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, there were pictures with Presidents, letters from Governors…I could go on and on. Yet after about one minute of being with her, you realize none of those things are really what’s most important to her. We sat at a small round table in her office with a large bowl of M&M’s placed perfectly in the center of the table, serving as a major temptation while we chatted. As we began sharing bits about our lives, I was impressed at the ease in which she spoke. I felt like I was sitting in a comfortable living room with a dear friend that I’d known for years. Every word she spoke was rich with wisdom and gratefulness. I knew immediately that this very special woman of God had something that all of us needed to hear.
Tillie and her husband Bob raised their two boys in Korea from 1966-1978. It was really their dream to be missionaries there for as long as God needed them to be. A severe brain issue that occurred in one of their sons required immediate and intricate care and thus ended their time in Korea and brought them back home to Arlington. At the time, their son wasn’t expected to live but as Tillie retells the story, she cleverly says, “He’s now in his 40’s, married with children and getting his doctorate, so I think he’s going to be ok.” When the Burgins returned from Korea, still full with a mission’s heart, Tillie got the thought, “If you can do missions in Korea, why can’t you do missions in Arlington?” That simple thought didn’t have a face or a name or even a plan of action, but it did have a huge servant’s heart. I asked Tillie if she had always dreamed of God using her in big ways. I asked how she handled the big vision God gave her for Mission Arlington. Her reply was profound.
“No, God never did it like that. I didn’t have a clue. It was just one bible study in one apartment. A person needed their electricity turned on, so we helped her. It was just one situation at a time. After that went well, we said, well this seems to be working. If the Lord would give us other apartments to help and have bible studies in, then we would know we were doing what He wanted us to do. So we began to pray for 6 apartments in a year and we got 6 in a week. I couldn’t keep up with God. He was providing and doing it and all I could do is just go through doors that seemed to be open. I told a lady we’d get her some furniture. I didn’t have furniture or a truck. I had no way of getting her what I told her I’d get her. Within a day a man offered his truck and a lady offered furniture she wasn’t using. Then as we began helping these people in the apartments, one of the volunteers asked what we were going to do if these people have dental problems. So they created a dental clinic. So I can’t take any credit for this. It is all God. The only idea that I had is when I asked someone, “Can I start a bible study in your apartment? ” From that point on it just has happened. This is totally His. God has led us every step of the way.”
Tillie grew up with parents who believed in serving their community. Her dad owned a service station and always taught her what it meant to be a servant. Back then service stations really were about serving and helping people. You could pay for gas and tires, but the station would clean the floorboards, windows and anything the customer needed. The most trouble Tillie ever got in was when she took a dime from a lady after washing her windshields. Her dad told her, “You give that dime back to that lady, we’re here to serve.” She grew up in that atmosphere. But it was at a “Sunday School visitation” with her church in her young teen years that she led a 13-year-old girl to the Lord and she knew right then she wanted to have a part in seeing people come to know Jesus. There would be no way to count the thousands upon thousands of people who have come to know Jesus through the loving service of Mission Arlington. In Tillie’s words, here is the work Mission Arlington is doing to serve the community.
“Today there are 316 apartment or mobile park churches that exist. Anyone who comes in gets counseling, gets prayed with, gets their needs met and when we find out where they live we connect them to one of our churches closest to them and that’s how we begin the discipling process and getting them into church. We believed from the onset of starting Mission Arlington that there were people who were hurting, broken, poor, whatever, and they were just never going to step foot in a church building, so we decided we would bring the church to them, and that’s just what we’ve done. I have story after story of people who have come here for help and as they’ve been able and they get a job or get their feet on the ground, they come back here to serve and give back. There are so many moving parts to this…It’s not an organization, it’s an organism. It’s living and moving. It’s one life, one opportunity, one situation and God does the bigness. He multiplies it. He takes it wherever He wants to take it…to the ends of the Earth because I believe that’s what the Scriptures say. This is just one speck. That’s just something I’ll always hold on to.”
Tillie never dreamed about being or having the “next big thing”, it was always about doing the one small thing time after time as God prompted. So when it became a big thing, she never took any credit for it. She knew it was only God that could do it. It should come as no surprise that her favorite scripture is John 3:16 because when God says “whosoever”, He means everybody and anyone!
This is a woman who is reaping great rewards because of relentless sowing done out of obedience day after day, year after year. It never has become laborious or burdensome because it truly was and has always been about God and doing the work of His kingdom here on Earth. I could’ve stayed many more hours to listen to Tillie share her life story, but as we wrapped up, she gave me a huge hug, filled a cup with M& M’s and asked me to come serve anytime I had the chance. It would be my pleasure Tillie.
If you would like more information about how to serve at Mission Arlington, check out their website at www.missionarlington.org.
Pictured: Miss Tillie and Blynda the day we met.