To read the intro click here.
The wise man in the storm prays God,
not for safety from danger,
but for deliverance from fear.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Once upon a time –it’s where all stories begin. And my story begins no differently….
Fear has defined much of my life. It has motivated my decisions. For far too long I have allowed it to be the weed choking out what could have been my dreams. Fear is paralyzing, debilitating, and manipulating. It is not from God – I Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Fear is from the father of lies, and he creeps in seeking to destroy, to devour, and to suck the abundant fullness right out of the life that Jesus Christ sacrificed His very breath in order to gift to us (John 10:10).
For most of our young married life we had been in camp ministry. My husband Jim was the Program Director of a small Christian youth camp. We loved many things about camp life and the ministry, but it was not the ministry that God had chosen for us. I think my heart knew this for about a year, but fear strangled me and kept me statued in place. I knew the Spirit was pricking Jim’s heart to leave the ministry of camp as well, but any time that he would mention it I would use my words to manipulate him into thinking that his motives were selfish. I continually told him he was falling prey to “the grass being greener on the other side”. I am ashamed and heartbroken for the way I manipulated him and distorted my biblical role as his wife. Manipulation was my weapon of choice in our seven short years of marriage. I thought I was protecting us – our family. I was certain I knew what was best for us. But mostly, I used it to mask my fear of the unknown. I would rather stay in a ministry that I knew God had not called us into then to step away with nothing to catch us. Change was to be feared, and I feared it well. However, in October of 2009 God brought everything to a head, and Jim came to me broken and desperate to leave camp ministry knowing that God was calling us to something different.
I can remember just like it was yesterday the day that I could no longer ignore the fact that God was leading us out of this particular ministry. It was the fall of 2009, October tenth to be exact. I will never forget that date. The night before Jim had asked me to pray about the possibility of us going into farming with our best friends. What a crazy, ridiculous idea! My husband knew basically nothing about farming. It had never been a passion of his, but he did enjoy the fellowship he had when he occasionally would milk side-by-side with his best friend. In my stubborn mind that wasn’t enough to completely change our life for. Looking back now, I can see it was just Jim feeling the Holy Spirit’s tugging, and the only immediate way that he could see for us to get out of camp. At the time, I was upset that Jim had even asked me to pray about farming. I did not want to pray about it. I did not want to leave camp. Camp was safe. We were secure. Jim's job and ministry was secure. I didn't pray about it that night or that next morning. My heart was in turmoil, and I was angry mostly because I was being suffocated with fear. My control was slipping away, and that left me with a huge pit of fear sitting hard as rock in my belly.
I was scheduled to take a family's photos that Saturday. First, I had to drive to camp and help prepare a lunch for a paintball retreat, though. We lived about forty five minutes from the camp. During the summer season – May through September - our entire family would move onto the campground. For the other months of the year we would live in our home and travel to retreats and events when needed. Jim had left several hours before me, so I drove up alone with my children. It was about five minutes into my drive that I felt the Spirit urging me to pray. I put a Steve Green's kid's CD in for Cadi and Scotty to listen to, turned it up, and began to pray out loud. I don't remember the exact words I said, but I know that I just poured my heart out to my Father. I told Him about my fear of leaving camp for the unknown, my fear of letting God truly have control over our life. About fifteen minutes before I got to camp that day, I began to cry. I remember worrying that I would frighten my children who were in the back seat. I was not silently crying, I was sobbing, gasping for air, sniffling - all out ugly crying. I almost pulled over, and for safety reasons I probably should have. However I kept driving - talking out loud to God and crying because I had gotten this overwhelming feeling - rather a knowing - that God was asking us to leave camp, and not only that, but He was asking us to leave soon - before we began planning for another summer. I knew that we needed to step out in faith, to trust Him completely with our lives. He was asking me to stop trying to manipulate our lives, to stop playing it safe. I was fairly certain that God did not have farming in our future either. I knew that Jim was gifted in the area of ministry, and that he had not yet been able to use all of his giftedness. I knew that Jim always had becoming a pastor on his heart. I just didn't have any idea at that time what God had in store for us.
I had never before had a conversation with God like this. I don't want to come across as all feelings/emotions based, but this was so real. There was absolutely no question in my mind that God was telling us that He was done using us at camp. That morning in the van had revolutionized my prayer life and my walk with God. Something had changed. My heart of stone was being softened and broken beyond recognition. It was one of the hardest moments of my life. It was a moment in time that forever changed the path of my life.
It was amazing.
I pulled our van on to the camp road with a strange mix of emotions. A peace came over me, but I was terrified of what laid ahead, too. I was nervous thinking about how I had to tell Jim, but I wasn't quite ready. Because I knew deep in my heart that Jim knew we had to leave camp as well, and once I told him that would be it. We would have to proceed. I worried about the people involved - the people we ministered with at camp and truly loved like family. I did not want to hurt them, but knew that could not stop us from following God. It is no secret that I struggle with fear of man, so I worried about that too - what would people think? What would our parents think, our friends? But I composed myself and I dried my eyes, took a deep breath and parked.
For the first time in my life I squelched the fear in my heart and did not let it reign over me. God was giving me a deliverance from the fear which had controlled most of my life. When Jim and I finally talked it was as I suspected - we had come to the same conclusion God was asking us to move on to another ministry. Soon after this moment, I wrote this in my blog describing what God had done and was doing to move us.
Once upon a time there was a girl who loved a boy and loved his passions and desires. She wanted to follow this boy to the end of the earth if need be, but she also wanted to play it safe.
Not rock the boat.
This girl liked routine,
She liked predictability,
she like stableness.
She found security and comfort in monotony, and she fled from change. She loved God, and desired His will for her life, but she clung with white knuckled fierceness to control of certain aspects of her life, and shamefully even tried to claim the reigns of control in the life of the boy whom she so loved.
The boy on occasion would mention a desire to pursue other passions, other ministries. The girl, oh how she would balk, and whimper and whine like the hot-headed toddler child that still reigned in her heart at times. The girl could manipulate the boy with well thought out words. She knew just what to say to tighten those reigns of control. And the boy, oh how he loved the girl, and wanted what was best for her. So he would back down. Time and time again. Little by little she whittled away at his will, his desires - trying hard to fit them into her safe little mold for their life.
The girl knew that this area of her life needed to be chipped away at. She knew that the control she fought so hard to hang on to was not right. This crazy need to control her life, his life, and everything that revolved around that was so very wrong. The control was not even real. It was imaginary.
She was not in control and could never be in control. She needed to relinquish it over to her Creator, Who was, and always had been - in control.
The girl was terrified of what this might mean. Terrified of really letting go, for probably the first time. Ever. She trembled at the thought of cutting the reigns from her clenched fists, and handing them over. What kind of fool would relinquish control over her life for some unknown future?
This area of control after all had been the girl's security blanket for as long as she could remember.
Don't rock the boat.
Resist change - change brings about the unknown, and with the unknown a lack of control. A complete and total surrender of what she had clung to for so long.
And then, what she had been so fearful of for such a long time, happened. Her Father breathed into her heart the voice of Truth - about her need to surrender. The girl crumbled in a heap knowing that the charade was truly over. In order to live abundantly, like her Creator intended her to live, she had to give up and give over this area of her life.
So broken and humbled the girl admitted to the boy that she could no longer carry on the false pretense of control.
The masquerade was over.
The mask of fear was taken off.
It was time to surrender.
She begged the boy's forgiveness for her manipulative ways, for her stubborn heart, and as the tears rolled over her cheeks she began to feel a peace wash over her, and begin to uncloud her mind and the lies she had told herself.
The boy seemed to have been waiting and praying for a long time for the girl to speak and feel those words.
He held the girl.
And the girl surrendered to the boy's embrace.
And together, for the first time, that boy and that girl free fell into the arms of the One who orchestrated it all.
There was no zip chord.
There was no emergency exit.
Just complete and total reliance in Someone outside of themselves.
Is the girl still scared?
Yes. But for the first time in her life, the girl feels real peace that covers much of the fear and knows the freedom that comes when one surrenders ALL.
... whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)
On January 30, 2010 we drove onto the campground for the very last time in the capacity of program director. We drove off the campground about six hours later, as just another couple leaving camp. We had no idea of what laid ahead in our future. We had no plans. No safety net. Camp had been an intricate chapter of our story. We were a couple who had gone through life change because of the way God has used that camp. We were a couple forever changed because of that camp. We were a very different couple than the one that drove onto that camp in the capacity of program director nearly six years ago.
But it was over.
Looking back over that time in our life I think one of the hardest parts of it all was not knowing the ending – not even knowing what was to come next. As a child, an avid reader for almost as long as I can remember, I always had to know the ending of a story. I had to see that it would work out and be a happy ending, before I could bare to read the turmoil and heartache that the story's characters would have to face in order to get to their happy ending. I'm still like that with novels at times - I just have to take a peek at that final chapter. I just have to know how the story ends. Sometimes it isn't happy, and sometimes I prefer that - to read a more realistic story that ends unresolved rather than neatly tied in a bow, but I wasn’t certain that was an option I wanted to consider for our ending. At the time, with a story so personal - with our story, I had no idea how it would end. What would this story cost us?
Little did we know that this would be the first step on the journey of a lifetime. It took God ripping the bondage of fear from me for the scales to begin to fall off of my eyes. He was already orchestrating an incredible journey. We had no idea that God was preparing our hearts for a story that would take us around the world to a country an ocean a way – Ethiopia – where a little brown-eyed boy was waiting for us to open our eyes and say yes to bringing him into our family in order to make him our son.
But that was exactly the story God was beginning to write for us. This was our once upon a time.