My favorite books and movies involve epic battles between the forces of good and evil. They pit the worst case scenario against things that seemingly have no real-world power. Things like love, friendship, honesty, and sacrifice. Things that from outward appearances hold no weight against weapons, money, strength, numbers, or power.
One of my favorite scenes in LOTR happens at the battle of Helms Deep. The greatest evil ever known by this fictional land has erupted, and grown to a point where it is literally unstoppable. The people of the land have taken refuge in a place called Helms Deep, and they are confident that they will be able to defend it.
But they aren’t able to.
Evil arrives in such great numbers- in such a vast army- that they are helpless. Defeat is inevitable. They are all going to die. The main characters decide to die fighting and they ride out into this vast army- a tiny spot of hope in the vast blackness of evil.
But then… (this is my favorite part)
Gandalf arrives with the break of day- he rides over the edge of a ridge followed by an army much greater than the evil. He arrives with blinding light that renders the army of darkness useless.
And suddenly there is hope. The battle is easily won. Good conquers evil in the face of insurmountable odds.
There’s a song by Mercy Me that reminds me of this scene every time I hear it. It’s called Flawless, and one part of the song describes Christ in this way:
“Then like a hero who takes the stage when we’re on the edge of our seats saying ‘It’s too late’- well let me introduce you to amazing grace”
Because that is, in fact, what Christ did. In an epic story (the most incredible story I’ve ever read) the greatest evil, and the darkest dark is defeated by a man who laid his life down for mankind. The son of God died a horrible, horrible death and was buried. And it looked like the dark had won. Evil had been victorious. Plenty of people said, “It’s too late. The story is over.”
But then…(again, my favorite part)
A pair of eyes opened. What was once thought lost was reborn in life. A savior walked out of his tomb in the early morning light and astonished the women who had come to tend to him. Love conquered death. Good conquered evil. Light overcame the dark.
But the best part? This wasn’t just a story. It didn’t take place in Middle Earth or Narnia. It actually happened. And it changed everything on this planet- for every single person- including you.
I have a hard time living day-to-day with this realization because it literally takes my breath away. Yesterday at church we sang the words, “You’re a good, good Father- it’s who you are… and I’m loved by You- it’s who I am.” (Chris Tomlin)
I felt my identity click into place. Because I am a part of this epic story- and so are you. We are loved by the one who gave his life away. In fact, we are the reason he did it. When the armies of darkness were so thick around us that we couldn’t even see, he stepped on the stage of time- the hero of all heroes- and rescued us. I am, more than any other part of my identity, a girl who is loved by Him. A girl who has been undeservedly rescued by Him.
I have friends who went to New Zealand to see where the LOTR movies were made- they took a tour of the various sites where parts of the movies were filmed. They talked about how amazing it was to walk the land where the movie was created.
Josiah Venture is sending all of it’s single missionaries on a retreat (our 1st one ever!) to Israel. I leave tomorrow. The Bible is my very favorite story, and to see the land in which this story took place is something I thought I’d never have the opportunity to do. A friend asked me yesterday how I was feeling about the trip coming up so soon. I told her I was having a hard time putting it into words.
It takes my breath away. To visit, not a movie set, but the place where the One who rescued us for all eternity walked and taught and died and resurrected.
Please pray for our group this week. We will be led, as we travel, through the book of Luke; searching for truths about Jesus in ministry and discipleship.
- Pray that our hearts would be open to learning and growing in the uniquely single lives God has granted each of us.
- Pray that this would be a time of refreshment, growth, strengthening and encouragement- especially for these missionaries living far from home so that young lives in Eastern and Central Europe can be reached with this very story of God’s great love.
- Pray for safety and health for our entire group
Thank you dear friends!!!!!
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s new memory feature. For those of you not on Facebook, it’s a reminder every day of what you were doing last year- 2 years ago- 4 years ago on this day. Sometimes it reminds me of sad days- or of fun memories with mom that still sting a bit. Mostly, it makes me smile though- it reminds me that this life is a journey and that God is at work transforming those of us who are following closely after Him.
It’s good to be transformed by God. That means that the flaws and hangups we see in ourselves today don’t have to predict our future. When we allow him to, he will gradually teach us and shape us and sift out the things that are in our way of being more like him.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
In the day-to-day living of life, the disciplines of renewing our mind in God’s word and in prayer don’t seem to add up to very dramatic transformation. Standing firm in the face of what the world calls “good” and God calls “evil” doesn’t seem to make much difference in the day-to-day.
But looking back (thank you Facebook…), I see God transforming me. I see God transforming you. He is changing us into the faith-filled, forward-looking, firmly-rooted children that He wants us to be. Makes me smile.
I guess I say all of this to encourage you (and me!) to continue in faithfulness and discipline this year.
Yes, my decimal was off- it was 1,608.3 miles- I didn’t drive to the moon… 🙂
Only 2 years ago I was starting my time in the desert of Arizona. I love thinking about all that God has taught me in these past two years. All that he has changed in me. Some of the lessons have been painful- but he has been faithful all along the way. My witness of that faithfulness, that “I’m always here- you are never going to face life alone- you have access to my strength” kind of faithfulness has given me so much peace. It has also put a fire in my heart to show others the great love and faithfulness of God.
I’m being transformed- and if you are following along after Christ- so are you! Praise God!!
I haven’t blogged in such a long time. There are two reasons for this:
- Interns!!! I am hiring and starting to prepare so many interns for this coming summer. We are up over 80 of them hired now- which is GREAT! Our application deadline is January 31, so every day is busier than the last with questions and paperwork and accounts to set up and issue. I love it! I have so many stories of how God is putting the puzzle pieces together to create His team of interns for this summer- it it an honor to have a front row seat to watch him move!!! Look at how many new faces we have in just 6 weeks! Please continue to pray for these dear young people as they prepare to serve overseas this summer.
- I’m spending 3 weeks with dad in Florida. I work from home, so when I’m caught up with work, I don’t spend my time writing- I spend it with dad 🙂 We are having mini-adventures exploring the areas around his new home. This part of Florida is jam-packed with springs and rivers, and we have gone (with Casper in tow!) to hike the trails surrounding these beautiful places. We’ve found yummy restaurants that allow pups to dine with you- we even found a cupcake shop close by 🙂
I will be back in Indiana this Thursday, and although I will miss dad, it will be good to dive back in to life in Indiana!
Thanks for listening to my ramblings… I pray that this week you have a sense of God’s faithfulness leading you forward and transforming you into his image!
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul
Psalm 23: 1-3a
I spent this week on the Navajo Nation, and it was perfect.
Life has been so busy and upside down for me this year. Nothing fits where it used to, and I keep thinking- who am I in this new life? Where do I fit- in my family- in Josiah Venture- in my church- with my friends. So many people have ideas about how I should fit, what I should be doing, how I should be prioritizing things. Start this, organize that, connect with these people, be more like this, talk about that, share this but don’t share that…
As I made my way up to the reservation from Phoenix, I settled in to the quiet views of wide open skies. I watched the cactus turn into the red rock of Sedona and then to the tall aspens and mountains of Flagstaff.
I stopped to see Meteor Crater- a sight I wanted to see when I lived in AZ and never got around to. I stood in the cold wind and wondered about the day God sent a meteor from space crashing into earth, creating this enormous crater. I touched a cold chunk of the meteor and thought about where it came from- how vast and inexplicable the space surrounding our little planet is….
Leaving Flagstaff, I came up over the edge of the mountains and smiled at the plains dotted with mesas and carved deep with canyons. Almost there.
Very little had changed since I was last in Rough Rock. The tumbleweed was taller- they had a lot of rain this summer. The little blue-roofed house I lived in had sprung a leak in the ceiling of the dining room that Sonny was trying to repair. The kids were taller, the babies walking and talking. But mostly, things felt the same, and I was reminded of all the slow, quiet days of visiting and teaching, of weaving Navajo rugs with Pauline and making frybread with Lula.
I was reminded of my many-months-ago dependance on God for the future. I didn’t know the next steps that summer, but I fully trusted that He did- and I rested there. I had peace.
So in the quiet of long drives and sunlit walks with friends my soul was restored by God.
I let go of all the thoughts and plans and expectations- real and imagined- that I feel heaped over me. I was reminded that the only voice I have to listen to, and obey is God’s- and that HE knows the way through change and busy and new. I remembered again that I have an audience of one to please. All I need to do is follow closely after my Shepherd, and all will be well.
Updates on Rough Rock:
Lavina’s family is growing up! Shenoah (the youngest) is walking and talking up a storm! We went trick-or treating together in Chinle, and I loved sharing a greasy Pizza Edge pizza with them all in the van beforehand and singing along to the radio at the top of our lungs. They were worn out before they even got to the door-to-door quest for candy!
Lavina has a new job at the hospital that she loves and the kids are all doing great in school. Next year Donovan will leave for boarding school in Farmington, which will be a big change for them.
We played SO many games of Yahtzee!!! One of the mission teams that came brought this game along and gave it to the Marianito kids last summer, and it was a hit! We played all afternoon and into the evening. “Heads Up” on my cell phone was a huge hit too and we laughed so hard that my stomach still hurts a little! I saved a few of the videos and you can watch one by clicking here.
Lula made fry bread and Navajo tacos for dinner one night…be jealous…they were soooooo good!!!!!
Lula also made me a Navajo Rug from the extra yarn I’d given her before I left last fall…such a sweet gift…!
All the other people from Rough Rock Friends are doing well- Sonny’s family has grown by one grandchild, and little Mika is almost done with her chemo treatments in Phoenix. She has tolerated them well, and they say that the tumors have shrunk, but they ask we would all keep praying for her. Sonny’s grandson Drey was out trick-or-treating when I snapped this photo…so sweet!
The whole Rough Rock crew was there on Sunday- plus it was 1st Sunday and all the other churches from up on the mesa came to worship together and share a November Thanksgiving dinner. The church is doing well- but I was a little disappointed that they weren’t growing. The head of Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting came for a visit that Sunday and he specifically shared with them that his hope is for them to not just sustain the people there, but to begin reaching out into the community.
Please pray for this. Please pray that God will continue to raise them up into the leaders of the church that are needed here.
I’m writing this blog at the kitchen table of dear friends- the Armstrongs. I will be here for the weekend and I’m looking forward to joining their family for a few days of football games, soccer practices, keep-away with their giant dog Toby and lots of laughter, joy and wisdom from the people who first convinced me that I actually could walk away from medicine and work full-time in ministry.
It feels like I’ve come full-circle this week, back to the place where I 1st realized that my “I could never” had turned into a “maybe I actually can”. It makes me so thankful that God keeps after us until we listen and follow him to the places he needs us to be.
That’s the name coined by my sister-in-law Steph for days when you experience a new set of circumstances for the 1st time. You know- the days when the routine you’ve always had, or people you’ve always known, are gone and you have to adjust? I’ve had a lot of those in the past few years.
The 1st BIG day of New in recent memory was the day I changed churches after attending the same one for over 15 years. I accidentally drove to the old church- instead of the new- because I had practically lived there for those years of my life. That new day was the 1st of many incredible days spent with this new family of believers. I can see now what I couldn’t see then- that God had a plan in this change.
There were First days of New when our lab closed and all my dear friends and coworkers went in different directions.
There was the day I first woke up to the silence of the Navajo Nation and wondered how I’d gotten there from where I thought I was headed.
There was the day I woke up after mom’s surgery last fall and listened for her in the kitchen making coffee, and then remembered.
The day we went (in January) for our traditional family Christmas celebration at Schuler’s without mom.
The day I started a job with Josiah Venture and met all the dear people I would be working with.
The day I woke up in dad’s house in Florida and thought, “This is new. This is where my family lives now. Not 282 Keathley Drive. My family lives on a cul-de-sac in Florida.”
So- last Sunday was another First Day of New. I wanted to see Steph, and I got up early and went to Battle Creek Friends. I went to the first service and to dad’s (not dad’s now) Sunday school class. I’ve attended this church since I was 2 years old and as I walked out of Sunday School into the crisp fall afternoon I automatically thought- what a perfect day to go back to mom and dad’s to nap in front of the football game! But, for the 1st time – ever- my parents do not live in Michigan!
Steph and I went to lunch, wandered around Target, took a long walk and talked about a million little things. We stopped and sat in silence on a bridge overlooking a pond. It was where I stopped with mom 2 years ago and got this picture of her.
It was a perfect afternoon and a good reminder to me that all of life is filled with seasons. Seasons of rest, seasons of work, seasons of plenty, seasons of need, seasons of joy, seasons of sorrow…
Just yesterday I took Casper to the vet for his checkup and shots. He wasn’t too happy about the shots, but I paid the bill and was carrying his little wiggling self outside to the car and I noticed a woman doubled over crying. I put Casper in the car and went to ask her if I could help. She explained that she had to put her dog down and she couldn’t bear the thought of it. She gestured over toward a little grey pup sitting in the grass. I asked her if I could pray for her and both of us cried. As I drove home with my (fairly grouchy but healthy) pup I thought of how different her life would be that next day without her dog. It didn’t seem fair that I got to go home with a healthy pup and she had to put hers down.
There’s a family in my parent’s old neighborhood who have been friends of our family for a long time. Their son, LB, has a heart condition that is worsening and he was recently put on the heart donor list. We were praying God would provide. Shortly after he was put on this list, another friend of mine from high school requested prayers for one of her son’s friends who had been in a car accident and was in critical condition. I was praying for both situations, when we got news that the young man in the car accident had died. Within a short time, we got a praise: LB had a heart and would be going to surgery shortly.
I suspected the two were connected and that was later confirmed. LB is home now and doing GREAT. The other family is thankful that their son’s death had meaning- at least 5 people were saved because he donated his organs- but they are mourning the loss of him.
Two families, two totally different seasons. Yet one God sustains them in each.
As I’ve thought about the various people God has placed in my life- each in a season all their own- and of God’s faithful provision through all of my First days of New, I was reminded of a verse oft quoted by one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Elliott.
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deut 33:27″
I think I like her writing so much because she walked through such a wide variety of seasons in her life with such grace. I’m positive her strength came from her understanding that God was her refuge and that under it all- the joys and the hurts- were His everlasting arms. He is able to hold us up through all that life brings. Every season.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In other news…
My apologies for not blogging more regularly. I can tell you one of the reasons: God is blessing Josiah Venture with a bumper crop of interns so far this fall! I am praying (along with so many others) that God will bring just the right young lives alongside our ministries in Eastern and Central Europe. I am so humbled by the young people I am meeting who are stepping out in great faith and signing up to serve next summer. God is answering our prayers!
Please continue to pray for this beautiful work of God to continue.
Right now, across the entire US, there are JV staff and missionaries visiting college groups, churches and universities, sharing about Josiah Venture and inviting young people to join us in 2016. My newsfeeds on Facebook and Instagram are full of fun pictures of God moving in young people’s hearts- stirring them to follow Him! My friend Mike shared this photo last night of a bonfire held for Wheaton and Moody Bible students interested in learning more about JV. It makes me smile.
Please pray for God to use these visits to make divine connections with just the right students!
On Thursday of this week, I will be leaving to visit my dear Navajo friends in Rough Rock! I am SO excited to see them and I can’t wait to see how God is moving among them and maturing the church there. Please pray for my time with them to be fruitful and honoring to God. I know many of you have read this little blog from the beginning and you have grown to love these dear people along with me– I will be sure to update you on how they all are doing in my next post! 🙂
Thank you for your prayers and support~ I am really excited to see God at work!!!
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…
I see a generation, rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith
I see a near revival, stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
We’re on our knees
The words to the song above began running through my mind and my heart last Monday night as hundreds of young leaders from over 14 countries poured in to Malenovice in the Czech Republic for Josiah Venture’s Fall Conference.
I didn’t write anything for a week other than taking notes in sessions. I didn’t even journal. I was entirely overwhelmed by the movement of God in this event.
Josiah Venture’s vision is to see “a movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe that finds its home in the local church and transforms society”, but there is something radically different between hearing about movement, and witnessing movement firsthand. It might take me a few posts here to sort out all that God showed me about Himself, Josiah Venture and my own heart, but I thought I would start by just telling you about the week.
My time at Malenovice started a few days before Fall Conference at Camp Meetings.
Isn’t it a beautiful place? This is a hotel that God provided for Josiah Venture to use as a retreat/ conference center many years ago. The story behind how God provided this place is so fun (but for another time…)
All of the events of this week were “firsts” for me, but a part of the JV year for almost everyone else. Camp Meetings happen every fall just before Fall Conference. The leaders of camp ministry and interns come from all of the Josiah Venture countries and meetings are held to review the previous summer ministry and to plan ahead for what is to come. It was a great time for countries to network about what they had done during the summer and to share about the incredible ways God moved in young lives. It was also a time to look forward to, and plan for next summer. The theme and logo for next year were revealed (love them!) and it was a fun time of getting excited for all that will be.
It was also a time for me to propose some of the changes we are making (and hoping to make) to the intern program for next year. As you all know, I’m not a big fan of up-front time, but everything I spoke about was well received and it was good to get info out to a lot of people (from a lot of places!) all at once.
Camp meeting ended on Monday morning, and that afternoon saw the arrival of young believers from all over Eastern and Central Europe for the official beginning of Fall Conference.
The theme was “Unstuck- Keeping the Move in Movement”, and as a tidal wave of youth flooded all of the buildings of Malenovice, I kept thinking about fruit. These young lives are fruit from years of ministry in these countries. Years of faithful sharing, discipleship and love. Years of God blessing those things and increasing them.
What I didn’t understand that first night, was exactly who these young people are.
To me, it felt like a youth retreat, but it was not.
I was sitting at lunch with one of the intern leaders I work with from Latvia, and he introduced me to the young man sitting with him. I introduced myself and in my mind thought- “Oh, he must be a part of David’s ministry in Latvia”. He was young- 20 at the most- and I asked him why he had decided to come to Fall Conference. He smiled and explained that he wanted to be better equipped in ministry to young people in Latvia. I asked him what ministry he was involved in and he explained that he is in charge of a ministry that uses music to reach young people for Christ. He asked if I would pray for the retreat he is planning and holding later in October.He expects over 800 students.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that each of the 300-plus young people at Fall Conference are not just young people coming to a retreat. They are young leaders, strategically chosen to be a part of this week of intensive equipping in ministry. Each of them have a sphere of influence- a group of others- they are investing in.
That night, as I worshipped together with everyone, I got that feeling I sometimes get when I look up into a starry sky and realize how big God is and how vast his power and creativity and love are. Each life in this room is wanting to grow and be further equipped to reach other lives in dark places.
This is God moving. I can see it, hear it and feel it deep in my heart. I feel myself caught up in it and moved along with it, going wherever He takes us.
There were times of teaching, times of discussion, and times of application. There were also personal stories. I never tire of hearing what God is doing in individual lives and circumstances.
One of the stories that really touched my heart was told by a young man from Albania. He explained how God had put it into his heart to reach the lost of his city for Christ and how he and a few friends began to meet and pray. They began to share about God’s love with others in this mainly Muslim nation, and God has grown this group of four into a group of 60. He shared about how hard it is to be a Christian among Muslims and then said this~ but we know that if God is for us, who can ever be against us!
One of the evening sessions spoke of calling and cost. What has God called us to do in his kingdom? What is the cost of that calling? The speaker had us think about these things and then she asked us to share some of our costs with the person sitting next to us. I turned to a sweet girl from Czech who told me that her cost was losing her family. When she became a Christian they disowned her.
I am so humbled by the faith, sacrifice and passion these young people have for reaching the world with God’s love.
Pray for them with me. They are facing things in daily life that many of us have never faced, with bold and unswerving faith. I think that is one of the reasons God is moving so powerfully among them.
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
A friend recently gave me this bracelet because it’s National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in September. That’s a fact I didn’t think I’d ever note in my life. I guess while breast cancer awareness is pink, ovarian is a pretty teal blue. Who knew that cancers were assigned colors…as if it makes them easier if they are assigned a pretty color.
I LOVE the bracelet though. “Be brave” reminds me of all the times in scripture we are reminded to “be strong and courageous”
Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Daniel: “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
David: “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”
Paul: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
I used to wonder about how this works. How do you stop being afraid of things? How do you “be strong, brave, courageous”?
Seems like fear just is. It just happens….?
So…I was on the Weakest Link. Maybe you remember that game show? It was a quiz show that was hosted by a perfectly awful British woman who would say (in the worst possible tone of voice) “You are the weakest link—goodbye!”
It was a really popular TV show when I started working in genetics, and I’m not a very fast learner so my coworkers often quipped this phrase at me when I made mistakes. “You are the weakest link!!!” One day, my friend Laura saw a notice in the paper advertising the opportunity to audition for the show, and suggested that I could OFFICIALLY be the weakest link, so off we went! Ironically (because I’d never seen the show before), I was chosen to be on it! They flew me out to Hollywood, put me up in a fancy hotel (where I met Bernie Mac in the lobby…) and put me on TV!
I was TERRIFIED.
When people ask me about the most scared I’ve ever been, being on TV ranks at the top of my list. It was all fun…makeup, hair, instructions, paperwork, meeting Jay Leno and seeing one of his crazy fancy cars in the back parking lot…and then we got on the set. All the lights and cameras- and a studio audience. Yikes. I was the 1st person up- which meant I was the 1st to record my introduction and the first to answer a question. The camera was a few feet from my face and the producer said, “Ok Ruthanne, we are taking all the lights down and on the count down of three they will come up and you will be live.” The room went dark.
PANIC!!!!!!! I’ve heard people say that a second can feel like so much more time, and this happened to me in this moment. I wondered what they would do if I ran. I wondered what they would do if I screamed. I wondered what would happen if I did both….?
“You are not alone.” I didn’t hear an audible voice, but it was a sentence spoken so loudly in my spirit that it silenced my inner panic. “You are not alone. I’m here.”
God. Here on a game show set in Hollywood. Here in the dark waiting with me in my panic.
My fear vanished- it actually vanished. I took a deep breath, and…
The lights came up and I played the game and I….well…maybe I won, maybe I didn’t. I don’t tell- I make people watch it with me 🙂
Later, when I thought back on this experience with God, I thought about Psalm 46 where it says:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
Lesson #1: Fear leaves in God’s presence, and He is ever-present.
My second lesson in fear happened just before I left for the Navajo Nation. I had coffee with a man named Jim who I’d worked with before in training mission teams. He runs a camp for inner city kids and he has experienced many instances of spiritual oppression and fought many battles on this front. I’d heard that there was much spiritual darkness where I was going and I was curious to learn more about how Jim does battle.
He had simple advice. He gave me a verse from 2 Timothy 1:7:
“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
He explained the simple truth that the spirit of fear does not come from God. It comes from Satan. Refuse that spirit. Ask God to take it away from you so that it doesn’t control you in any way. Simply REFUSE and REBUKE fear. Running into battle is harder when you are trembling in fear.
I’d never thought of it that way before, and I tucked his advice away for use on my new mission field. But I was never afraid. I mean, there were spiders and snakes I was afraid of- and tumbleweed freaks me out… but there were no overwhelming or controlling fears that I struggled with there.
I came home, started raising support, went to training in Chicago in early October of last year, and on my way home dad called. “They think mom has cancer”.
Fear. Overwhelming and paralyzing fear. I hung up the phone and drove and panicked over all the scenarios the future could hold. I felt worse and worse- I’ve never had a panic attack, but I think I came close that day on the Indiana Toll Road.
Then I remembered that verse Jim had given me almost a year earlier.
This fear was not from God. Out loud, I started praying and asking God to remove the overwhelming fear. I asked him to replace it with His power, love, self-control and peace.
He did. The fear completely left that day. It occasionally crept back in over the course of mom’s illness. We got SUCH bad news, over and over. But fear didn’t control me anymore. God’s spirit filled me- not the spirit of fear.
Lesson #2 Paralyzing fear is not from God and with God’s help you can refuse it and be free of it.
I’m sure I have further lessons to learn in this, but since the bracelet keeps reminding me of the ones I’ve learned I thought I’d write them down. Maybe they will be an encouragement to you. On a side note, I was just thinking the other day about the word encourage. It’s like the words enable (to make able), enclose (to make closed in), enlarge (to make large). But it’s encourage. To make brave. To make courageous.
Makes me want to be better at encouraging!!!! 🙂
I’m writing this blog for the last time from mom and dad’s living room in Battle Creek. Everything is packed, and dad moves out tomorrow. We will miss this place, but we have said goodbye well. Please pray for all the details of closing and moving and for safe travel as he takes a trailer and a cat all the way to Ocala!
Last night, mom and dad’s small group and Sunday School class had a good-bye party for dad- it was fun to share a meal and memories with these dear friends of my parents- many of whom have known our family since I was a toddler. A beautiful picture of the importance of community as we walk with God through this life.
I leave for the Czech Republic in 2 days. I will be taking part in Camp Meeting, which is a gathering of all the missionaries that work with summer camps and with interns. I will be introducing some of the changes and updates that we are making to the JV intern program. Which means I will be speaking in front of lots of people… (be brave!!!) After camp meeting is JV Fall Conference. I’ve never been to either of these events, but I’m excited to learn more about how JV equips our leaders and missionaries. I will be excited to update you about what I learn!
Pray for safe travels, health and energy (I am a failure at adapting to jet lag!). Also pray for my heart to be all there. I’m hesitant to be so far from the states with so much transition happening. (be brave!!!) I have a lot of people to meet with and much to accomplish in areas that are best worked on face-to-face with my overseas coworkers.
Finally- I am SO close to being finished with support raising. I need exactly $252 per month in support. That’s it. Pray that God provides though monthly or annual donations.
I’ve had some time at home in Fort Wayne this month, and it has been such a blessing to spend time with some of you- to be a part of some of your celebrations and to even walk through some of your hard times. I’m looking forward to spending the fall and winter reconnecting, friends! I promise that I won’t always be insanely busy!!! I’m so thankful for your love, encouragement and support~ I believe with all my heart that God chose many of you to walk this road with me because he knew I would need exactly what you are bringing to my life. Especially those of you who make me laugh- goodness…I’ve laughed a lot this week with you! Hugs and much love! ~r
The interns are home! Over 100 US, Canadian and National interns served this summer in the countries of Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. For the 1st time this summer we had two traveling teams of interns: Communication Team interns travelled all over Eastern and Central Europe capturing the stories of camps and interns in photo, journal and video, and EXIT Tour interns travelled as a band, doing concerts at schools and camps all summer. The stories are pouring in of God’s provision and work in young lives this summer- and I love reading them! Here are quick excerpts from 3 intern newsletters (used with permission) that capture the momentum of God’s work better than I can:
Warm greetings from Riga again 🙂 This is my last newsletter for my summer internship with Josiah Venture 🙂 Thank you for your greetings, prayers and encouragement this summer. They have meant huge to me throughout my internship in a remote and unfamiliar country.
Time flies and I couldn’t believe that I will leave this team and this country in less than one week. Next few days we will be debriefing… I have experienced so much in 2 months..If you ask me to use one word to describe my summer, I can only use “good”. It is good, not in the way that is comfortable, relaxing, financially rewarding. Instead, it is very challenging, energy-demanding, and very costly. But it is all WORTH it. I have never doubted that it is God that led me here and as the time went on, I saw more and more of His purpose to let me be here. I’m so glad that now I could say that I not only have finished this “race” but also finished it well. I discovered, learned so much from this summer in many ways and got to know some very dear friends. Honestly, it was the most meaningful summer I have had so far.
Cześć wszystkim! I am writing this to you all from my own bedroom in Denver. I have to admit it feels
strange—it’s been one of the first times I have been completely alone for more than 15 minutes for
almost 3 months. I have been in the United States since late Friday night, spent two days debriefing in
Arizona with the Arizona girls and leaders, and have been in Denver since Monday afternoon and the re-
entry process has definitely begun.
I will detail more of my re-entry process in my final, follow-up letter in a few weeks. Before I
briefly talk about my final week in Poland I have one awesome praise to God. At my final camp in
Mikoszewo I met a girl named Ada and, at the beginning of the week, she had told me that she had been
somewhat attending the Łodź church for about 5 years but had never made a decision to follow Christ
and have a relationship with Him. But she was interested in what the pastor had been saying in church
services and enjoyed camps. I prayed that night and in the following days that she would finally make a
decision to have a relationship with God because indecision is still a decision. The second to last night of
camp we had Labyrinth, which, if you don’t know what it is, is a series of four stations that guides the
campers to think about where they are in life and where they stand with God. That night Ada finally
made a decision, and she made a decision to have a relationship with God and to follow Him! Praise the
This blog I’m keeping is a crazy thing. One week ministry related, and the next my personal journey with God. In my mind they are inextricably connected- but for everyone else it’s probably confusing.
File this one under “personal”.
Last week Dad and Steph and I went to Florida to find a new home for dad.
It was awesome. It had rained for 22 days straight, and when we arrived: sun!
We looked at 12 homes and dad knew almost immediately which one he wanted- and it is beautiful.
When we walked into the master bed/bath, there was a cute little metal stand with my mom’s favorite hymn written out. It’s the song she requested for her funeral. Sounds a little crazy, but it felt like her telling us that this is all ok, this moving to Florida business.
Literally everything fell into place and we had a beautiful, perfect afternoon at the beach waiting to hear if dad’s offer was accepted. It was- contingent on the sale of his home in Michigan.
God’s kindness continues, and I keep thanking him and thanking him for giving us even little things that make this journey easier.
I was thinking about all the times I claim an event or a set of circumstances to be from God- how often I am thankful for His blessings. I was recently told that when Christians claim God has blessed them, that they are in essence saying that if God hasn’t given another person that same thing that they are NOT blessed. So, because He has blessed you with children that He has cursed me with no children. As I sat in the airport a few days ago, listening to screaming, I came to the conclusion that no children is decidedly a blessing!
Could it be that everything from God’s hand is good and perfect? Can we see blessing and thank Him in all things? Dad finding just the right house, me losing my job at Parkview, a perfect day at the beach, losing mom to cancer…? It seems that when I look back on things I definitely didn’t see as blessings at the time, that they are redeemed over time to be good and perfect things.
I think the apostle Paul found that place of always-thankful when he wrote:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11b-13
I write a lot of blogs I never publish. Writing makes me think and helps me process. I wrote the following in late June and never hit “publish”, but it seems to fit- so here you go!
I’ve had a hard week or two. I’m not particularly good with change. My friend Laura will laugh when she reads that sentence because she has walked through change with me and makes fun of how much I like things to stay the same. When I moved from an apartment into my house it was excruciatingly difficult. I agonized over the decision and finally burst into tears on my way back home from my parent’s house in Michigan, and told God that I needed a sign that it was time to move- that I needed it written on the wall like he did in Daniel’s time. When I got back to my apartment and opened the door, the entire ceiling was caved in and there was water everywhere. The guy upstairs fell asleep filling his waterbed and it exploded.
I called a realtor that same day and a week later purchased the house I love and call home.
Then I agonized about the furniture… and I never, ever move it. Once placed, it has remained to this day.
There is something in me that craves stability and wants things- especially good things- to never change.
And then last year happened. I told myself that I could adjust to living in Arizona- everything else would stay the same. My house in Fort Wayne would stay the same, my family in Michigan would stay the same. My church, my dog, my friends…same, same same. All good.
Then mom died. And the universe shifted. Then dad decided to move to Florida. Shift. And sell our childhood home. Shift.
And I got a job not in medicine. Not at an office. Work from home. Travel a lot. Raise support. All new people and coworkers and tasks to learn and organize.
The refuge of mom and dad’s house turned into a construction zone. No fresh-cut flowers on the kitchen table. No kitchen table, in fact. Home-cooked meals replaced by Oreos. Boxes stacked where chairs once stood. The cat pacing back and forth where there used to be a couch.
I remember a rainy fall day in my sophomore year of college. My boyfriend had broken up with me and I was lying on the top bunk of my dorm bed crying. I was listing for God all the things I hated about college, and boys, and life in general.
In the middle of my tears and frustration a song came to mind that my mom sang to me when I was very young…
Count your blessings name them one by one… Count your blessings see what God has done.
Count your blessings- name them one by one…Count your many blessings see what God has done.
Far from being inspiring, the remembrance of this song frustrated me. Sure- count all ZERO of my blessings. Blah blah….
“You have a microwave”
The thought came out of nowhere. A microwave? Seriously?
But then I had to acknowledge that I was really thankful we had a microwave in our room (oh the 90’s). And a fridge. And I guessed I felt blessed to be away at college. Because I had awesome parents that prayed for me and encouraged me. And a sweet job on campus with flexible hours….
My list grew to grandmas and green olives and palm trees and fingernail polish. Items big and small stacked up and I grabbed my journal and wrote page after page of blessings.
Too many to count.
Look at what God had done. The tears had stopped and God began to focus my heart on what was given rather than what had been taken away.
So that brings us to today. All of a sudden my life’s changes crashed in on me.
I don’t WANT mom to be gone. I want to have summer with her like I’ve always had.
I don’t want dad to move away, I don’t want him to sell our house.
I want to have our huge family 4th of July party like usual. I don’t want last year to have been the last time. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to that part of my life.
I don’t want to pick out cookbooks and Christmas ornaments to keep. I want all of moms things to stay.
I don’t want there to be (anywhere on this planet) a piece of stone with my parent’s names on it in a cemetery.
I want to freeze time, and turn it back, and have things the same. Forever.
I lay on my back on my couch telling God these things and feeling tears run all the way to the back of my neck, and then I thought….
At least I have a microwave.
And I laughed.
I looked at the ball of white fluff named Casper perched on the back of the couch watching me in awkward silence (he can’t handle crying, which I find so funny that it generally makes me laugh and ends all tears).
I started my mental list of blessings…. and allowed God to pull me back from despair and into thankfulness.
Life is so much harder than I ever imagined it could be.
But there is beauty in the presence of God -and peace and joy I never imagined existed in the middle of change and tears.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings name them one by one… Count your blessings see what God has done.
Count your blessings- name them one by one…Count your many blessings see what God has done.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Last year, my parents informed us that they would be selling the home we grew up in and moving to a one-level, smaller home.
I’ve lived in this home since I was two. In fact, I remember sitting on the edge of the brick fireplace with mom as she pointed out the rooms that were yet-to-be. Only a wooden frame.
I remember how much I loved my bedroom- I had a canopy bed!
I remember sledding down that front hill and listening to mom read me Charlotte’s Web on the front porch swing (we both cried when Charlotte died).
I remember dancing in circles to the gospel quartet music dad would play on the big stereo in the living room.
I remember convincing my brother to play with Barbies, and setting up the entire house as a giant Nancy Drew mystery for all the neighborhood kids.
I could literally write for hours and not capture all of the wonderful things that this house has seen though the years. So saying goodbye has been hard. Not as hard as saying goodbye to mom last winter, but hard.
I started to pray at the beginning of the summer for God to be kind in this transition- for him to make this seemingly horrible thing a joy. For Him to make the process as easy as possible. For all of us to see Him at work in this- making it ok- making it just the next step in His always-for-the-best path for our family.
The sorting and organizing and saying goodbye to the things that remind me of mom and home was so hard. I hated it. I had a melt-down about a dumb colander that mom used for years and I simply could not keep. I watched families walk down the driveway with our holiday decorations and dishes. I found myself wandering the rooms of our house trying to capture as many memories as I could before this place was lost to me.
We took pictures of the house and dad called his friend Phil who is a realtor. We planned a date to list it and I kept praying for it not to be so hard.
And then God….
The Sunday before it went on the market, a friend from church (who used to be a neighbor), called and asked when we were planning to sell the house. She thought her son might be interested.
He wasn’t- but he knew another couple at church who was looking for a house like ours. They’d been looking for months.
They came over to see it and knew immediately it was the perfect house for them.
Here’s the cool part: They grew up at our church and went through mom’s Sunday school class. They probably came to pool parties that mom hosted when they were kids. Mom loved them both. She would be thrilled that her house is going to this young family. An offer has been settled on, and if all goes as planned they will close near the end of August and our home will become the home of a dear sweet couple who grew up as a part of our church community.
God was so kind to us in this. The house didn’t even go on the market. So. Kind.
Please pray for all the inspections (two of them tomorrow, in fact!) and loans to go through without an issue!!!
Please pray for God to guide dad in choosing a house in Florida. He is taking Stephanie and I along with him in a couple of weeks to pick one out.
I feel myself just kicking and fighting my way through all of this change…losing a job, losing mom, changing careers, moving dad… I’m so thankful that God is kind in His taking away and giving. He is gentle in the taking and so generous in the giving.
Please pray for us these next few weeks. Lots of change and lots of important decisions to be made.
In other news- My trip out east has been VERY helpful for my support: I’m at 82% of my monthly support!!!!! Only 18% left to raise before September 1st!! Praising God for this- and inviting you (again!) to join my monthly support team, and help me get to the end of support raising and to the beginning of FULL TIME work with Josiah Venture!! I can’t wait!!
You can join my team by clicking here, or email me at the same link if you would like a support card mailed to you!
Thanks for being a part of all the ups and downs of life with me~ I thank God for you all the time!!!
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:21
It has been a good month. I do miss the peace and stillness, but there has been incredible blessing from God in this season.
I am balancing four things right now:
1. Completing my training under Brenda for the position I will begin full-time in September as JV Intern Coordinator. Next up is updating the website information for next year’s internship. We have almost seen an entire intern year through…hard to believe!
2. Reorganizing/ streamlining the intern process and writing procedures for both my position and for the intern point people overseas. These are the full-time missionaries that direct the intern program in their country. These procedures need to be done ASAP before the next intern season swings into gear in September.
3. Raising the last bit of my support. Brenda will be moving to Canada in September and I need to be at 100% of my monthly support to begin this position full-time. I still need about $1300 in monthly pledges to cover both my salary and my ministry expenses.
4. Saying goodbye to the home I grew up in and helping dad prepare to move to Florida. Dad has a serious offer on his house and he wants Stephanie and I to go down to Florida with him soon to look at homes and put an offer in on one. Moving is so much work- physically and emotionally. This is dad’s 1st move in 42 years and the logistics of it are exhausting to just think about.
God is at work in each of these areas. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed I remind myself that this is a season and God is IN IT. In all parts of it. Just the same, please pray specifically for these things? Someday, dad will live in Florida, all support will be raised, the job will be learned and the procedures written. I will be able to look back and see more clearly how God’s timing is perfect.
The past 10 days have been laser-focused on support raising. It feels like I have invited everyone I know in Indiana and Michigan to join my support team. (If you are reading this and I haven’t, tell me and I will!!!) God has put it into so many hearts to join me, and I’m so thankful!! At JV’s suggestion, I planned a trip out east to connect with friends from my past to either ask them to join my support team or to thank them for already being a part of it!
It was SO much fun! Here are some photos of friends that are so dear to me that I can’t stop smiling at these pictures of our time together.
My 1st day out, I stopped at North Olmstead Evangelical Friends Church in Ohio. My dear friend from Junior High, Geoff, is the pastor there and they are one of my supporting churches. I had a chance to share a short update on the interns and camp ministry and enjoyed lunch with Geoff and his wife Mary.
That afternoon I met with my friend Quint, who pastors a Friend’s church in Sebring, OH. He was the pastor who first connected me with Rough Rock. His church has an old cemetery and Friend’s Meeting house on it’s property. He gave me a mini tour of the Meeting House, with a different side for men and women. I grew up in a Friends church, and it was fascinating to hear him tell the history.
Quint is the director of a Friends Church camp in southern Ohio, and I’d asked him for a tour since I was passing through the area. One of the things I’d asked God to do on this trip was to open up doors to share about JV in unexpected places. This was one of those places. We just “happened” to arrive when all the parents were dropping their kids off for camp. As Quint worked his way down the line of parents checking kids in, and introduced himself, he introduced me as a missionary with Josiah Venture, which triggered all sorts of fun questions. I added a lot of new people to my email update list and even met a professor from Malone College who wants to get JV out to share with the students there about internships.
Day two found me in eastern Pennsylvania with my friend Megan, who I met several years ago in Russia. We went to lunch at Bethann’s house (and had three blue VW Bug owners under one roof….). Bethann and I were in a wedding together several years ago and stayed connected on Facebook. She and her husband Tom have a ministry in counseling and encouraging missionaries. We spent the entire afternoon with them, sharing about our ministries with each other.
Megan introduced me to her small group- Cornerstone Young Adults- and I was able to share with them about Josiah Venture. Since they are sending a team over, they had lots of questions about opportunities for serving.
Megan is a baker and blogger like me, so we took a morning and went into New Jersey to Carlo’s Bakery. (The Cake Boss TV show?) I’d never seen the show, but the cannoli were fabulous. I thought I could stay on my low calorie diet this week but the cake boss and Megan’s mom Wendy (incredible cook!) changed my mind. After leaving Megan’s house I made a stop in Baltimore to see my friend Deb. We have been friends since we were two, and we have travelled to so many fun places together. I didn’t even take a picture of us- but that is the kind of friendship we have- we just caught up over popcorn (it’s a long-standing tradition started by her dad) and enjoyed being friends.
Next up was Washington DC! God surprised me again here. I got a text from my mom’s oncologist! She has been one of my biggest Josiah Venture cheerleaders ever since I met her at the hospital during those hard, hard days of losing mom. She told me she’d seen in my newsletter that I’d be in DC and she was there for a conference! We met for lunch and it was a time of so much laughter and encouragement and excitement (she is leaving her position to become a full-time oncologist in Africa!). Such a GREAT and unexpected blessing.
My evening in DC was spent with James at the best Cuban restaurant ever. James spent a year in Fort Wayne doing an internship as an attorney. We both commented that it felt like he was there longer than a year, because we made the best memories together. It was so interesting to hear about life as a Christ follower in the politics of DC. It was a joy to introduce him to the ministry of Josiah Venture. James has such a passion for missions and reaching people for Christ- it was really fun to catch up—and the coffee was literally the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Ever. It kept me up all night and I didn’t even care…it was that good.
Chantilly, VA is just outside of DC and that is where my friends Bill and Lauren live with their 5 amazing kids! Bill and I became friends when I first moved to Fort Wayne and then Lauren became a friend when they started dating and got married. Such a fun and energetic family- I even got to meet the chickens! We spread old pictures out over the table and reminisced about all of our years together as friends. I loved it so much.
Bill and Lauren arranged for me to share about Josiah Venture at their church, Christ Church. Wow- such a welcoming church! I loved meeting so many people who are passionate about missions. The pastor, Becki+, leads an organization that teaches English in Ghana and we connected right away. It was such a great morning- isn’t it fun to meet people you will someday spend eternity with in heaven? We truly have a bond with other believers that is so special.
After lunch, I had a group hug with Bill and Lauren’s family to say goodbye- and the kids wanted a “selfeet” picture 🙂 I love it!
Just south of DC in Palmyra, VA, my friends from high school, Craig and Cheryl live with their two daughters (and a dog that is Casper’s twin). I stopped by for dinner and LOVED catching up with them. We were in youth group together at Battle Creek Friends and have a ton of fun memories of those days. Cheryl and I sat by a campfire and chatted long after dinner and my drive afterwards into a big storm in West Virginia was full of smiles remembering our talks of God’s provision and grace.
I finished my trip up by stopping in Lebanon, Ohio to see the Colberts! Monica was in my Medical Technology class when I was in college. We bonded over failing lab math together… Monica and I worked together in the lab for years, and when her husband Chad was transferred to Ohio for work I was SO sad. Her girls were so little when she left, and now they are all grown up! We had a great dinner, a tooth was lost, and I used a selfie stick for the very 1st time!
I was SO close to Xenia OH that I had to stop and see my dear friend Amanda. She was in my college group for years and went on many mission trips with me. We still see each other fairly often because her family is still in Fort Wayne, but laughing til our faces hurt was a perfect end to my trip!
Well. That was a lot of pictures and stories. I have one more.
I spent a good portion of my driving time (1,710 miles!) telling God about how much I need Him to provide in this whole support raising part of my job. Asking people to join you only is asking unless God puts it into hearts to give….
I was driving very late through terrible storms in West Virginia on my way back to Ohio, and I thought- this is how my life feels. No calm, no peace, just going, and worrying, and wondering. Trying to get through the storm of busy to the peace on the other side. I turned on the radio and hit scan.
Banjos….static….banjos…..static….static…..banjos…..gospel quartet. I hit stop on the quartet. My dad loves gospel quartets. They were singing:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Leave to thy God to order and provide…he undertakes to guide the future as he has the past…don’t let anything shake your hope and confidence- because all that’s mysterious and dark and stormy now, will be bright someday.
Order and provision. He will bring these things – to each of us when we trust Him to lead.
And that makes me smile.
Thanks for riding along with me on this journey. If you want to join my monthly support team the online link is here. You can also use that link to email me if you have questions or if you have a small group or church that might want to hear about what Josiah Venture is doing in Eastern and Central Europe!
Have a great week dear friends!!!