The March blog that never was

This blog has started and been erased a half dozen times. It’s even saved in my computer as “blog March.” But now it’s April and that’s ok.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m a forgetter. Each time some new crisis or unknown comes along, I get lost in the forest and I’m blinded by the trees. “There’s no way through THIS one,” I think. And the worry and stress take over. The need to change or fix or correct is strong with me. Mostly, it’s the now things: the state of the house, the fight with him, the things that never got done, she’s not eating enough protein, there’s no audiologist here, what if we have a major medical emergency, apathy toward things I should care about, her messy room, no exercise in three days, the laundry mountain hiding in the back, the pile of dishes mocking from the kitchen, the unwritten sermon…

And then, those lead into the bigger worries. Are we doing the right thing for our daughter by living in this country? Is she seeing Jesus in us? Will she grow up not liking Him at all? What about our marriage? Are we doing all we can to preserve and nurture it? What about all the people we love? How will we ever feel connected again? How do I model faith for him and for her when I’m best at faith-less-ness? Will she be ok without a sibling? What if the weight never comes off and I’m not there for the special events in her life? Will I ever fall head over heels in love with the Word of God? I’m only 20 years from retirement. Have I pursued what’s deep in my soul? When I come to the end of my life, what legacy will I be leaving?

You know what the problem with all these questions is? They aren’t ‘remembering’ questions. For 44 years, I have born witness to the hand of God at work in my life. Not usually at the time, but after some time has passed. And guess what? He was THERE. All through the messy, broken, can’t figure it out moments of my life (and there have been a lot of them). The stuff that clouds my mind most of the time…the anxiety…the stress…it’s about what’s going on now and how it’s going to affect the future. But when I allow that kind of thought process to take hold, it’s crippling. When I don’t sit in the now, look around, hands open to receive the gift of NOW, and at the same time remember what He’s done in the past, those worries and stresses become a giant snowball of doubt. Doubt that He’ll do it again. Do what? He’ll work all these things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). And that’s one thing I know. I love Him.

I know people who cry and pray and stress over what I consider to be little decisions…what car to buy, what church to attend, whether their kid makes cheerleading, what movies they should or shouldn’t see, etc., and I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever decisions we make or are made for us, things that happen or things that don’t, ALL things will {eventually} work for the GOOD of those who love Him. Remember that little book I told you about in my last blog…y’all, it’s turning me on my head. GET IT. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Vokamp. Honestly, I wish I could quote the whole thing here and my husband even remarked, “You know, it loses its significance if you highlight the whole book!” But I really and truly believe in my bones that the Lord placed this book in my hands at just this time in my life, for this season. Even the subtitle, “A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are,” is the story of my time in PNG so far.

I have fought this move with everything in me, from the very beginning. The list of excuses was (and sometimes still is) a mile long. Some of them sound downright lame to me, but it’s the truth. Here are some of them:

It's too far.
·       Our daughter needs stability.
·       I can’t learn another language.
·       I have nothing to offer these people.
·       I am not sure I will like it there.
·       There are no restaurants or shopping.
·       We won’t make enough money for retirement.
·       I’m my parents’ only child and my daughter is their only grandchild.
·       What will we do when/if we go back to the States?
·       Our daughter won’t have the influence of her extended family.
·       She won’t like God because He’s the reason we’re doing this.
·       I am not using my training and skills.
·       I don’t want to be a teacher.
·       This is about what my husband wants. What about me?
·       I’m not sure we’re ‘called.’
·       What if we’re not holy enough to be missionaries?

Y’all. Seriously. These lists of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ and ‘I’m not sures’ and ‘I don’t knows,’ is absolutely debilitating at times.

So what is the thing that I’m learning? The thing that’s changing me, little by little? The thing that’s starting to slowly drown the anxiety and the stress and the worry? One word: THANKSGIVING. This book, and the scripture that it references, is, for the first time in my never-contented, always worried about what’s next life, forcing me to look at the truth. Worry and stress and less than abundance comes from the lack of thanksgiving. It’s a hard read, but sometimes looking in the mirror isn’t pretty. I’m learning that all of the space in my brain and my soul for thankfulness, contentedness, peace has been overtaken for years by unbelief in a good God. For if I believed in a good God who would continue to show up again and again as I’ve recognized Him before, I would be so aware of the goodness around me, in big things and small, that there would no longer be room for fear, worry, and doubt.

A big revelation? You bet. Does it mean there won’t be a place to recognize what’s really hard? No way. But it also changes the wiring in my brain to know deep in my innermost being that Christ is here. No matter what happens. No matter what tragedies lurk around the corner…HE IS HERE. And that has always been enough. What am I afraid of? When I look back on my lists up there of all the worries and frets and, as they call them in PNG, “hevis,” because they’re heavy, which ones won’t be surrounded by the presence and very indwelling of Christ? None.

And they will come. The hard times always do. Not just the things you worry might happen but the things that do happen. Then what? One of my biggest fears has always been earthquakes. How interesting that I find myself living in what’s known as the ‘Ring of Fire,’ the place in the world with one of the highest numbers of earthquakes! In February, we were hit with an especially hard one…it woke us from sleep in the early hours of the morning and we ran for the door. Now, with each tremor, I’m convinced that ‘this is the big one.’ But since I’ve felt one or two big quakes, how much time do I spend worrying that another will hit? And what will worrying about it change? How many of you can add a single measure to his life by worrying? 

Ann says:
“Much of the worry in my own life has been a failure to believe…a wariness to thank and trust the love hand of God.” (One Thousand Gifts, 149)

“Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don’t believe?” (151)


So, while still very much on this journey of having the dry ground of worry, stress, and anxiety dug up in my soul and Him planting new seeds of thanksgiving and gratitude for what IS (the good and the hard), I am keeping these words of the Psalmist close:

“God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start. Now I’m alert to God’s ways; I don’t take God for granted. Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.” Psalm 18:20-24 (The Message)


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