Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Update on our lives

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written an update and I want to offer my deepest apologies. I’ve known for some time that this needed to be written, but have just not been able to put it together in my head. I’m really sorry that I’ve been “incommunicado” for so long.

As I look back and try to analyze what has been happening, I’ve seen some patterns emerge. I hope by sharing my experience that you will glean something hopeful and helpful for yourself, and also see ways in which you can continue to pray for Sierra and me.

Well, first off…let’s go back and recap this wild ride. As you will remember, 2 years ago Sierra and I set out to explore Mexico and the mission field (can you believe it’s been 2 years already!!??!??!). After being there for several months, I recognized that we needed additional training and an “umbrella” organization for help and accountability – that’s when we signed up for and went to YWAM Chico for my Crossroads Discipleship Training School. What a high that was!! A spiritual mountaintop experience for 5 months! Incredible, amazing – it left me breathless and so deeply in love with Jesus…I just wanted every moment of my life to be living in service with Him.

I had known since I was 11 years old that a life of missions was the life for me…God had that call on my life from an early age. I could see that same call on Sierra’s life, and after much prayer and confirmation from people I respect in my life, made the decision to go into full-time missions with YWAM. I felt that God was calling us to serve in Chico for this season to further mature and grow us and to allow us to recover more fully from the effects of the divorce. This was not the picture I’d had in my mind all my life of what a life in the mission field would look like! I had always imagined myself in fields with the workers, a baby strapped to my back with one of those colorful sarapes, picking coffee beans alongside the indigenous peoples – sharing the joy of the Lord with them through the simple act of loving them and helping to provide a better life, living alongside them.

I think I’m getting ahead of myself here…anyway, so we made the decision to go to Chico and made a 2-year commitment to the base there. Although it was not what I had always imagined, I knew that God had a plan and I could trust Him. There were also many pragmatic reasons for us to be in Chico…the cost of living on the base is significantly less than other bases, it’s close to home so we can still see family (this was hugely important to Sierra, who suffered major homesickness in Mexico), there is a school on-base for Sierra to attend, we already had some relationships established there, the base has an excellent reputation throughout YWAM for discipleship and leader development…all in all, it seemed like a smart first step.

I had already made the major jump of selling off all (okay…most) of my earthly possessions. The house and cars were sold off; furniture, clothing, household items – all sold or given away. I kept my art supplies, and I must say – I have an overabundance of these things! I kept pictures and a few mementos, all tucked away in my parents barn. I had a bit of money put away in savings and some put into stocks, mutual funds and a 401(k). I took out my savings and bought a car and used it to move up to Chico, furnish my base housing and get settled. Boy, it went fast! Yikes! I began to question myself…was I spending my savings too quickly? Was I being foolish? All of a sudden it sank in – this is where it stops! It doesn’t continue to grow from here! It’s one direction – out. Okay…deep breath – the Lord called us here, He is our Provider, He will provide. We can relax. And He did provide! We’ve been able to pay bills, buy groceries, have occasional nights out…the Lord is good.

So here we were, missionaries in Chico. I didn’t exactly feel like a “missionary”…I was fighting against my own bias of what I thought a missionary “looked” like…and somehow, subtly, the enemy began to feed me lies. And I began to eat them. I started to think that I had to “earn” blessings and that I needed big, heroic stories to write home about telling about all the spiritual things I was doing to prove I was a “missionary”. In short, I was living in deception.

It all starts so easily. Have you ever heard that a sheep gets lost one bite at a time? Believe it! Not to say that I’m “lost” in any big sense of the word…after all, we are all nothing more than clay pots in various forms of brokenness. I am nothing, and I realize that in the most wonderful way possible! But I began to act out the belief (or would it be unbelief?) that I had to “prove myself”…prove that the Lord had called us here, prove that I was worthy, prove that I deserved a blessing. Can you see it? It’s not up to me to prove myself – that is the Lord’s job! I am NOT worthy. I DON’T deserve anything…that is what makes our faith so incredibly humbling and wonderful. The Lord doesn’t give to us out of our worth, but because of His deep and abiding love in who He created us to be, He has given us freely the gift of life and blessings in abundance. It’s such a paradigm shift…of COURSE I can’t prove myself! I mean, in essence that is saying that somehow I can manipulate GOD with my actions – and how absolutely ludicrous and lofty-minded is that? It is only in my nothingness that I become anything, and that only through the gift and blessing of God.

The tightrope I’ve always walked on has been one of worthlessness and proving my worth. Yet, the Lord is clear that we are to neither think too low nor too high of ourselves, but rather to clothe ourselves in humility and recognize who we are according to His great purpose.

So I stand before you now (okay, actually I sit in the coffee shop before the screen, which will print out a copy of my thoughts, which will be held in front of you…but for the sake of clich├ęs and all that, we’ll just go with it…) with no lofty accomplishments which prove to you that God has called me here. I have nothing to show to gain any favor of God or man. In fact, it’s been a terribly difficult year of adjustment and I’ve suffered much loneliness and feel that I’ve made very little headway spiritually. I’ve given in too often to negativity and unbelief, feeling as though the path is as clear as mud.

It’s interesting…the other day (in the midst of negativity and despair), the Lord gave me a picture of a clear pool of water – it was so beautiful, like a crystal clear mountain stream. Then it got muddier and muddier, till soon I couldn’t see through it at all – it was all stirred up. The word He gave me was that I needed to stop striving…I was only confusing myself and kicking up the mud. Stop “pushing against the goads”…stop striving…rest in Him and He will show you the way, He will light your path, make it straight and make the way clear.

Are you like me? Do you work and work, hoping to prove to someone, anyone, that you are worthy? Do you doubt that God has blessings in store for you and that He won’t give them to you unless you say the right thing or have longer bible studies or deeper prayer sessions? Have you bought into the lie of Satan that somehow we earn our way to the Lord through who WE are or what WE do? I can tell you, it IS a lie…because we have nothing except by the hand of God. We are nothing except by the hand of God, we do nothing, we earn nothing, we deserve nothing. It is only by the work of Jesus on the cross and by the love of God – nothing else – that we are or do or have.

I continue to struggle with this. I told the Lord I didn’t know what it meant to “not strive”…I don’t know what it looks like. I asked Him to teach me. I know He will, because He loves me and wants to see me free and whole. He loves you and wants to see you free and whole, too. Let’s pray together in this!

Okay, well…I guess I’ll stop preaching! Haha…I suppose I should fill you in on the “nitty gritty” details of our life here. Well, first of all, we live in a small 2-bedroom cabin – and I do mean small! It’s 350 sq. ft., but we’ve made it real cute and homey.

I work at the school on base and teach the 3rd-6th graders. This has been really fun sometimes, and incredibly challenging other times. My class has ranged in size from 6-10 students, depending on when families leave for outreaches. Sierra is in another class for 7th-12th graders. The primary challenge has not come from discipline problems in the classroom or from the curriculum, but rather from the very blurry line of being both mom and teacher in a small community where I live, eat and work with the kids and their families. I’m with the kids literally all the time – in the class, after school, during lunch, on the weekends. I see it all and it’s not pretty! The kids are just like any kids and go through all the same stuff – but with the added pressure of being “MK’s (Missionary Kids)” and the expectation that brings. Overall they are pretty good and I believe that they want to know and serve the Lord. I have had many moments (hours) of discipleship with them, particularly the girls, as they try to work out this thing called growing up.

Sierra is doing really well. In January she went with her youth group to Mexico for a week to build houses and just loved it! She was nervous about going (and so was I!!), but she did great – she’s excited to go back this summer (more on that later)! She’s had her share of struggles and has been on the losing end of some social rejecting (girls this age can be tough), but through it I’ve been absolutely impressed and blessed to see her making huge strides in maturing both emotionally and spiritually. She has an understanding of the Lord far beyond her years and is excellent in times of trouble, offering wise counsel and a timely word. She’s just so beautiful I can hardly stand it and she’s got this amazing sense of style. She is doing okay in school, but has trouble staying motivated – something I can relate to from my youth! If you see her, don’t tell her how tall she’s getting – she’s hoping she’ll stop at 5’6”!!

School gets out June 1, and then we’ll have a few weeks off before we start a crazy summer schedule. Sierra will go to Santa Rosa to spend some time with Grandpa and Grandma – she’ll be there from June 21 until July 4. I’ll be heading to Mexico to lead some teams down for house-building ministries. I’ll come back up and get Sierra and then we both head down for the rest of July to lead teams in Mexico. We’ll take a week vacation with the family at my parents’ house in Mexico before heading back to the base to get ready for the next school year. At this time I am planning to continue teaching, but one thing I’ve learned is that things are always changing!

I hope this finds you well and richly blessed. Please call or write to let us know how you are – we treasure hearing from you! I do apologize again for the long absence of these lengthy updates, and I commit to sending them more often (then maybe they won’t be so long!). Abundant blessings to you and your family!