In Response to “Does Missions Separate Families?”

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I never expected that my recent post “Does Missions Separate Families?” would be so widely-read. But in the past week or so, I have had the privilege of a whole audience I never imagined: missionaries.
From all over the world.

And I just wanted to say to these missionaries and your families: thank you.
As I read your comments, I got just a small taste of your daily reality. Your real thoughts, your real feelings, and the real cost of what you are doing. More than anything, that you are real people.

I couldn’t respond to your every comment. Not because there were so many, but because…sometimes I just didn’t know what to say. Reading your perspectives, and testimonies left me often just whispering, “Wow,” and pushing myself away from the kitchen table, lost in thought about you. I had no words to simply “reply” to all I feel for you.

But this is what I want you to know, if you find yourself here and are now following:
I love what you are doing. I love that you are following Christ and proclaiming Him in the darkest places of the earth. Even when that darkness seems to invade every part of you. Even when you feel completely and utterly, alone. Even when you can’t talk to anyone (in English) and just want to scream at the sky. And even when your families, and showers, and clean sheets, and sanity seem a million miles away.

Surely you will be give one hundred times more in the life to come.

The other day, my brother-in-law in Africa (whom I wrote the post about) emailed us and said protests and riots broke out in their city (due to what happened in France.) The next day, the protesters burnt down eighty percent of the churches. And the day after that, he visited one the smoldering churches just two miles from their home.

There he met two men, who said the protesters tried to burn the church down, while they were still in the building—but they managed to escape. Nearly all the teaching curriculum and bibles were burned.

Listen, I don’t know where you are. I don’t know the threats that lurk outside your door. I don’t even know if you will be able to read this. But this is what I do know—Your mission stands. It is of God. And it cannot fail.

They can burn down your churches. They can burn up the bibles. But they cannot take away the Spirit of the Living God. And He goes everywhere with you. And you go everywhere with Him. And His Word is in your heart, like a fire. And He will not be mocked. And this mission, regardless of what you see in front of you today, is not a failure.

My brother-in-law tried to encourage those two native men, who escaped their burning church, but instead they turned and encouraged him saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” And then went on to assure him that even though their building was destroyed, the Church still remained.

I was later sent this amazing video footage of the believers from their country worshiping in their church the day after it burnt.

They get it. They know where their treasure is. And that He is faithful, and He will do it. “He will not fail or be discouraged.” Isaiah 42:4

He will not fail or be discouraged.
And I guess that’s the only reply I have for you. I’ve searched it out, and these are the most soothing words I can find: He will not fail or be discouraged.

And neither will you.

Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for laying down your lives. And for making our family grow. For the day is drawing near, when we will meet, face to face, every brother, sister, son, and daughter at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and we will all rejoice wildly together at the greatest reward of all. That is, Christ.

For He will not fail or be discouraged.

About My Barrenness

Discovering Barrenness

“At least 2 years!” Is what I begged of my husband. At least two years where we could have sanity. Build our relationship. Discover who we were as a couple. Then the little munchkins could come. When I was ready.

So…we did the infamous Pill. No dreaded “honeymoon baby” for us. That’s what happened to people who didn’t think. Who didn’t plan. And I was determined that would not be us.

Two years came…and I started to “feel ready.” Something just changed in me. I knew I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t want life to be all about me, or my husband. I wanted a baby to love too.

“Trust me, we won’t have any trouble!” I assured my husband with a wink, as I threw that final round disk of 28 pills like a frisbee into the trash can. My mom and older sister both got pregnant in their first year of marriage, and I was sure I would be of the “Fertile Myrtle,” just-look-my-way and I’ll be pregnant “type.”

But that first month “we tried,” I remember so vividly, so naively (looking back), taking that first pregnancy test. Waiting those two minutes. And the shock when it read: NEGATIVE.

If you have experienced this, at least once, you will know the strange sorrow that subtly fills your heart. I cried before I left for work, and my husband hugged me, and assured me everything was alright. It might just take a few months.

Months Waning On & Why God?

The next month came, and so did my period. And the next, and the next. It was just taking a little “longer than expected.”

I charted my periods, fluids, temperature, and anger. I went to the doctor. My husband went to the doctor. I read books, and blogs. And cried. A lot.

Most of my friends were on baby #2 or #3. But I was barren. And no one knew why. It seemed so easy for everyone else. (Especially those teenage girls pushing their strollers down the street.) But not for me, not for us. It felt as if we stood still; frozen, and the whole world kept rushing past us.

It was about two years of this. It doesn’t seem that long now..but it did then. The climax of every 28 days waiting to find out if “this month is different.” Only to be disappointed by the regular flow of blood, or a negative pregnancy test (that doesn’t magically turn to positive after it’s tossed in the trash can.) Trust me..I always checked. Just in case.

Some months I was full of faith. “In faith..” I’d declare, “I am NOT buying tampons..because I am trusting this month I won’t need them!” (Only later to go out and have to buy the overpriced ones at the gas station down the road.) Darn.

The Day I Stopped Being Barren

Then it happened. All this time God was trying to lasso my heart, and I remember the day He did. Sometimes that happens. You’re not even looking for it, like swimming with your eyes closed and smacking your forehead off the side of the swimming pool.

I was listening to an online episode of “Adventures in Odyssey” with my 5th grade students. While they finished coloring their homemade storybooks, I sat and listened to a story about a woman who had become blind by an accident. She said for years she “tolerated” what God had allowed in her life, but she never was thankful for it. But over the years, she learned how to actually thank God for what He allowed in her life. This is what He determined was for her greatest good. So she embraced it with both arms, and thanked Him.

For so long “tolerating,” but never “thanking” God for what He was doing. At last, so convicted. Cut to the heart. If God decided it was not time, who was I to say His plan was not good? I ducked behind my monitor and wiped away tears and bitterness. Who was I to quarrel with my Maker?

That was the day, this very small seed began to grow in me. Instead of fighting Him tooth and nail over his plan, I began to thank Him. Begrudgingly at first, but then genuinely. Praying things like: Thank You that You know my body better than I do, and maybe you’re protecting me from something my body cannot handle. Thank you I don’t have to go through morning sickness. Or weight gain. Or (the dreaded) labor. Thank You for no stretch marks. Or a flabby stomach. Or flabby arms. (Ok..maybe my list was slightly vain and trivial..but it was sincere.)

I began to realize maybe God had a different purpose for me, for my husband. Began to think of the extra time we would have together. What this might allow us to do. It was the working of a real miracle in me: I stopped envying all my friends who were moms. Stopped wanting other women’s lives. And I started thanking God that He had a unique calling on me. I kept my focus on the few things He had entrusted me with, (like loving my husband, and taking care of our home, and my job) and tried to do those well.

That seed was growing in me. Life was beginning to fill me.  I stopped seeing all the EMPTY in my life. Started seeing how full it was. Overflowing. Joyful. Unique. And God became close, intimate, and sovereign over this. For the first time: I stopped demanding with clenched fists–and started worshiping with open hands.

As I was leaving my job one day, this song came into my mind. I remember jotting it down on pink post-it notes…and finishing it the moment I walked in the door and crashed down at my piano. It was like this cry coming out of me, that I had to get out on paper, had to sing:

Barren, barren for all to see

Barren, but He’s still beautiful to me

 

I prayed for a baby

For the start of new life

Though I barely know how to be a good wife

 

The doctor’s say

They don’t know what to do

I know in Your sovereign will You’ll choose

To give me life

 

And You say,

“There’s Someone living inside you,

Though not a child, tucked inside your womb,

But my Holy Spirit, who conquered Jesus’ tomb.

He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive,

Hear Him roar!

And you’re alive, you’re alive

More than ever before.

 

Do you trust me, Honey?

In My time, In My way

When your womb is barren,

And your hands are empty?”

 

Tears fell over the keys. And a new chord was struck that day, within me. One that had not been played before. I was waiting for a baby to fulfill what only God could. The Life I was longing for.

And I was no longer barren. My soul was full, brimming, overflowing with joy. Gratitude. I was thankful, fruitful. Surrendered. Connected to the Vine. No longer dying..but living. And for the first time…in a very long time: content.

The Baby Blessing

We had rented “The Shadowlands,” and I was scarfing down a bowl of Oreo Birthday Cake ice cream, when I realized I finally had to pee. I had picked up a pregnancy test like I had many other times, and this was nothing new. My period was late..but that didn’t mean anything. This had happened before..to no avail. “Do you want me to pause it?” My husband called as I darted up the stairs. “Noo!” I shouted down. I wasn’t going to let myself be excited. I was just going to be content to “not be pregnant.” No expectations. I peed on the stick and waited, refusing to look at it. Furiously praying as I always did, “Lord. Please let me be at peace with whatever the result is!” (I don’t think there’s ever been a girl in history whose heart hasn’t skipped a beat while waiting those FOREVER two minutes.) I took a deep breath.

Opened my eyes. And to my shock read, “Pregnant.” I shook my head as if to clear it. “Pregnant?” Pregnant. My mind started racing a million miles per hour. “Brandon!!!” I shouted for my husband to come upstairs. I had no words. I just shoved the pee soaked stick into his hands. And he read it. Speechless. Our eyes met. Locked. And we started laughing. “What?!” Hugging. Staring at it.  “Do you think it’s right?!” We’re crying. Collapsing on the bed. Locking onto one another. Could this be real?

And suddenly, the realization, the rush of warmth—God. He did this. In His time, in His way.