Of Wheat and the Nations

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We stood side by side on the balcony; the sound of children kicking soccer balls behind us and the women chatting in the living room. I looked out over the dirty city. The rebar jutted from the tops of cinder-block houses and the barbed wire wrapped itself across the tops of the concrete walls. But all I could see standing there where the soft tips of wheat bowing in the wind.

The fields were white.

How do you say when you heard the voice of God? What if He didn’t speak audibly or come in the night watch with angels and visions? What if He doesn’t send someone to tell you “thus saith the LORD”? What if instead you are standing with your back to the ocean, praying for a country you have little earthly affection for and His love hits you like a wave and you know in your heart. You know you must come.

Come and tell them that they are loved. 

Looking back now it seems not as unexpected as it felt in that moment. Maybe it only felt unexpected because I just really didn’t want to move to Haiti. Maybe it was because I assumed He would send us to one of the other half a dozen countries we’ve already been to. Or maybe it’s simply because no man knows the day or the hour and you can be waiting for something for twenty years and still He comes like a thief in the night.

God is a God of suddenly.

And suddenly, I am here. Sitting below the puzzle that’s hanging on the wall. The puzzle He used to speak to my heart so many months ago now. Don’t give up. I am opening the doors to the nations. Truthfully, I had started to wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing up. I mean sure, I had told my husband not to buy me a diamond when we married so that way I wouldn’t have to take it off depending on where we lived. And sure, I had used “the nations” as the leverage for most of my moral training sessions with my kids… “when we’re in Ethiopia all the eggs are spicy…”

But, does that make it so?

Is it enough to believe that there is something you were simply created for?- Something you were uniquely designed to do. I had felt the enemy in my doubt. I had felt him seduce my heart with reason. You really should just let it go and be content with your nice life. God has prospered here and we live a comfortable life. I stared at my sofa with the throw pillows I had recently purchased. I like the patterns. And in that moment a holy violence rose up in my soul.

THROW PILLOWS! YOU WANT ME TO LIVE MY LIFE FOR MATCHING THROW PILLOWS!?

That’s when He had come to me. He gave me peace and assurance that the call was real but nothing more. Stretched out before me was a dry landscape of daily life and closed doors. There was no foot path, or trail to start down. All I could do was wait and believe.

“Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers[e] in the desert.”

Even as I walked off that beach, with the love of God pounding in my heart for that island I “did not see it”. For days I had scribbled notes in my journal; verses about the “islands seeing God’s salvation” and did not see it. In fact, I had prophesied the birth of my fifth child and named her Journey Faith (when I received the above verse) but I didn’t see it…

Until that moment.

God had made a way- right under my very nose but I had not seen it until that moment. There was a stream in the desert. There was a way in the wilderness. It had been fourteen years since our marriage vows and seven since we had first set our feet on foreign soil as man and wife. So much had happened since then.

I had thought it was going to be then.

I had fallen in love with Ethiopia. And Kevin had seen a vision in the night. The family huddled against the wall. “What are you doing here?” he asks. “Waiting for you to wake up.” they reply. But the fear took him and he pulled the covers back over his head. But a second family came in the night. They were closer and darker and this time he reached out. Now looking over at my husband I realize it. We were not ready then. Something has shifted.

We woke up.

The realization that we were being called to Haiti was met with the simultaneous pain of knowing what we had to leave to answer that call. We hadn’t gotten ready by ourselves over the last seven years. God had forged us in the context of community and that community wouldn’t be coming with us. So the last two months have been fraught with shock, excitement and intercession. We have shared with our closest friends and family, and set ourselves before the church we have loved and served for the past ten years. It is agreed.

We are to go to Haiti.

It was only a little surprising to us that after dreaming it two nights in a row, my husband’s job offered him a severance package shortly after returning home. It is also only a little surprising that God would ask us to make that step of faith without a new job in Haiti firmly within our grasp. And though we are uncertain how it will affect our ministry on the ground, it is also not surprising that He called us to a land merely weeks before it was ravaged by a monster hurricane.

But the fields are still white.

Still, how is it that life can be reduced to boxes? How easy it is to see what has value when you have to fit what matters into a suitcase. And how challenging! Each tiny shirt I put in the “for sale” bag is a memory- a memory of a place I am leaving regardless of whether I understand how yet. Every hug from a friend, every moment with a sister, is a reminder of what happens when you let Jesus build a family. And each time I look out over the green grass, rolling down the hill of my back yard, I swallow hard. There are dreams I won’t fulfill in this house. Plans I had, ideas… but we don’t get forever. We aren’t guaranteed anything in this life, save His presence.

Seasons change.

And our season here has ended. It is the bittersweet nectar of promise. The laying down of one thing to take hold of the new. But I suspect in this, the pain of diminishing, hides a glory that is to be found in obedience. There is always a cross to following Jesus, but there is also a resurrection. I eagerly anticipate the unfolding of His glory in new ways and I trust that whether a street away or a whole world apart, the glory that is revealed in one of our lives will bear a tandem blessing. It will be a light to warm the wearied and faithful and be a beacon to darkened paths. This is what it is to be of One Spirit.

Still, we will miss everyone so terribly much.

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God’s grace to you as you seek Him and strive to let love produce obedience. To all who are part of our life here in Cedar Rapids, please know how amazing you are. How important this place is and how much you are loved. No doubt we will be giving updates as soon as we have them to give. Those of you who already know have been such a support to us and we are challenged and humbled by your love.

 

 

 

Floods…

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This week my home city of Cedar Rapids is cleaning up. Cleaning up from a flood that didn’t happen. At least not like it could have. Early last week my children were talking in the back seat about the rising waters as we drove over the bridge. We prayed for our city and then one of my children spoke up and said “It’s not our city. It’s God’s city and He can stop the water.”

“No He can’t!” the other child shot back.

“Actually He can.”  a third child inserted. “He can even move mountains.”

So, I pulled off the bridge and wandered through the maze of closed streets until we could get as close as we could to the temporary barrier of sand and black plastic. The children piled out of the van and tromped over where the drains were starting to back up into the streets. As I kept the little ones from playing in the water the second son raised his hands and prayed. He prayed that the water would stay in its banks.

And it did.
I can’t take credit for stopping the flood of 2016, but I believe there were people who had faith for something other than destruction. Not the least of which were my small children and I am grateful we acted on the faith we had in that moment. I can’t prove it made a difference but I believe it did. Tonight, I’m wondering if this week wasn’t practice for a greater test of faith. Earlier this summer the LORD tricked me into taking a short trip with my husband and two oldest children to the small island country of Haiti.

20160815_140237-1And He broke my heart.

Not with pity. Not with shock. With love. I was simply overwhelmed with His love for this small country. Today that little country is facing another in a sorted history of disasters. To me this is not a news report. I have friends down there now. Friends who might not live if this storm hits. Friends who have no where to run from winds and waters that tear and pillage.

My dear friends. I know each of you has something that is dear to your heart. Some place that is special to you. It may not be Haiti but I’m still asking you to join with me. I’m asking you to open your heart and let love and faith for some place not your own, to enter in and speak through you in prayer. I’m asking you to stretch out your hands with me and tell the water to stay in its banks.

I simply cannot imagine finding out in twenty-four hours that the amazing boys we spent the week with have been swept away, or that the women we prayed for were left stranded with their little ones. If Hurricane Matthew hits as intended the flooding and mudslides alone could wreak havoc. Not just in one city but in the entire country!  (Hurricane Matthew) Last week I acted on the faith I had and wandered down to the waterside to pray. Tonight, I have faith to ask you all to pray. To quiet yourself and hear God speak out through you for this island country. To let Him proclaim peace to the storm through His powerful Holy Spirit. If you are willing join with me…

Heavenly Father, 

I believe you are still the God who walks on waters. Who speaks and the waves are stilled. I believe that You listen when we cry and I believe you delight in showing mercy. I also believe that you have a new story to write in Haiti. I believe that You are starting something new and I believe it begins with mercy. Father, I have no magic words. No super prayers. I’m simply asking that you stop the storm. That it does not hit these islands. None of them. I pray that it dries up in its tracks and that you supernaturally protect the coast. I pray for peace in Haiti. For healing in Haiti. For your love to stretch out as that impenetrable banner over each person there. LORD release your hand against the storm. Stay the waves and the winds and speak a new destiny over this land. I ask these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.