All I had hoped.

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DSC_0069“That is how surrendering to God begins. Not often, but every once in awhile, God brings us to a major turning point – a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest- our best for His glory.”

Oswald Chambers

Hope is a funny thing.

I’ve hoped for many things in my life. Sometimes those things come to pass and sometimes they don’t, but I was created with a seemingly unhealthy dose of optimism, so I continue to hope in spite of all evidence to the contrary sometimes.

My greatest unfulfilled hope in life has been the desire to be married and have a family of my own. In my mental script of how my life would be, I would be married by 24 and have either 4 or 6 kids (an even number so nobody would feel left out!). As my friends from high school and college started to marry and I was forever the bridesmaid and never the bride, I started to worry. I spent a great deal of time talking to God about this desire of my heart- this great HOPE of mine. I was in a fairly serious relationship at 28- for several years- and when it fell apart I became angry with God for not answering my prayers in the way I wanted Him to. I begged Him to hear me and answer my request. I prayed and prayed and waited.

Nothing.

I remember my pastor at the time, Paul Armstrong, asked me one day if I believed ALL of scripture to  be true. I knew the “right” answer was yes- but I was honest and told him I had a few problems with the oft-quoted verse in Psalm 37, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I had spent most of my life delighting in God and his Word and his presence- but no matter how hard I prayed, he would not give me the desire of my heart.

Paul thought for a bit and replied that maybe what I thought was the desire of my heart actually wasn’t. He reminded me that God knows our hearts and desires even more than we do- maybe God was giving me the desire of my heart but I just couldn’t see it yet.

I seriously doubted that Paul was right.

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My best friend in my 30’s was Angie Hartman. She shared the same hope as me for a husband, and she had waited as long as I had, and puzzled about this unanswered prayer of ours. We became dear friends- telling our horror stories about blind dates gone VERY wrong, searching for the “perfect” cup of coffee, and praying together. One year, we committed to praying specifically for each other in this desire to be married. We prayed all week, but on Tuesdays we fasted and prayed for each other. Later that year, Angie met her husband-to-be, Dave and she was engaged and quickly married.

I didn’t meet anyone.

I think there is a point for each of us that have chosen to follow Christ when we decide we trust Him fully- in spite of how things look- or we walk away from him. Angie’s wedding day was that moment in my life.

I put on my bridesmaid dress, played flute, held a bouquet, took pictures, helped at the reception, and finally got in my car to go home. God and I had a heart-to-heart.

Why God? Why were prayers answered for Angie and not for me? Why?

I remember sitting in my driveway and taking a deep breath and saying out loud, “I don’t know why this happened the way it did God, but I trust you. I choose to TRUST you. It doesn’t make sense and it seems unfair, but I am choosing from this moment forward to trust you no matter what happens.”

I’ve said those words many times to him since, for there is much in life we cannot understand. Sometimes I speak those words in tears, and sometimes I say them defiantly- fighting my own desire for self pity and doubt.

Last summer I was finishing up my time on the Navajo Nation and I had just agreed to take a job working with Josiah Venture. I was sitting with Lavina while her kids danced Powwow and frybread sizzled on the stove for dinner. The sun was setting in a blaze of brilliant red, and I had the thought, “I am living everything my heart has ever desired.” It was a perfect evening.

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Later that week as I drove home across the country, that moment came back to me. Paul was right all those years ago. I couldn’t imagine my heart’s desire being for anything other than marriage and family, but God had given me something I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago. Something I wanted more. 

God is faithful.

All of this reminds me of a part of scripture written by Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations. If you have the time, read chapter #3, I will just sum it up for you.

He begins by listing the terrible things God has allowed in his life:

“He has driven me away…made me walk in darkness…turned his hand against me…surrounded me with bitterness and hardship…shut out my prayers…left me without help…pierced my heart…deprived me of peace.”

“So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all I that I had hoped from the Lord.'”

All that I had hoped…

I feel a bit of his pain. I too have hoped for things from God and seen nothing come of that hope.

I hoped that God would heal mom.

I remember telling dad that every morning during her hospice stay I would wake up, pray for healing, and drive to Kalamazoo fully expecting her to be sitting up in bed asking for pizza. I’m not sure why she would be wanting pizza for breakfast, but in my imagination, craving pizza would be the surest sign of complete healing from cancer.

But instead of all I hoped and prayed for, she died.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,to the one who seeks him…Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

Do you see where Jeremiah goes with his broken dreams and hurts? He doesn’t turn away from God- instead he calls TRUTH to mind and therefore he has HOPE.

God loves me- and no matter how hard things are, we are not consumed.

His compassions never fail- they are new each day- he is SO faithful.

God is our portion- he will fill us, satisfy us and meet us in ways nothing else can.

God is good to us when we hope and trust in Him.

He will show compassion.

Jeremiah could have turned away- he had more reason to than most- but instead he called to mind all the truth he could recall about God, and it gave him an inexplicable hope.

Many of you ask how I’m doing these days and I have to say- I have inexplicable hope. I have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”. I have become dear friends with my creator over all these years of waiting, and I really do trust him with tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. I don’t know what the future holds, but he has shown himself to be faithful, and that is enough for today.

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Many of you also ask how things are with Josiah Venture, and my answer is: I love it! My position at Parkview ended on December 31st, and since I needed an income and JV really needed help with the interns, I was allowed to start part-time until all of my support is in.

I love the work with the interns so far- love it. It feels like a job that God has already prepared me to do over years of college ministry and mission trip planning.

The remainder of my time is spent in making connections with people and churches to reach 100% of the monthly support I still need. I’m learning so many new things and meeting the most incredible people along the way. Again, I prayed that God would provide all of my support last fall and hoped he would. He didn’t, and I’m just beginning to see the reasons as I walk this path. College students who would not have heard about JV that want to be interns, churches that I’d never been to that are excited to send short term teams next summer, and people who had never heard of the great need for help in Eastern and Central Europe who are now a part of what God is doing through Josiah Venture.

God’s timing and leading are perfect- even when they seem confusing.

Please continue to pray for our family as we adjust to a life without my mom, please pray for the interns that are just now beginning to plan for a summer of serving God, and please pray that God would bring just the right people along to be a part of my support team.

Thank you dear friends!!!!!!!!

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