It Wasn’t a Bad Dream After All

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In the wee hours of the morning, I reach over to the nightstand for my water bottle to soothe my dry and sore throat, which is slowly recovering from a bout of tonsillitis. I can’t find it. Right. It’s in THE CAR. It was a restless night and every shift to find a better position moved the sheet over my skin, sending raw pain up and down my legs and arms. My groggy mind registers it. Right. Multiple abrasions on my arms, hands and legs from falling. While chasing THE CAR.

Our Prado served our family so well for so many trips and we loved it. We looked forward to many more trips with it.

So, it wasn’t a bad dream after all. I think I knew that, even in my sleepy state. But a girl can still hope, right? Yesterday, our car was stolen. Our uninsured-against-theft Toyota Prado was driven out of a parking lot right before our very eyes. I celebrated Valentine’s Day with the love of my life unsuccessfully chasing after our car, making a big scene in the parking lot, making statements to the police, filling out forms, getting doctored from the hardware store first aid kit, making and taking phone calls and sending news to people.

 

The irony of it also being Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season is not lost on us either. Giving up something to focus better on God. Seeking God in a fresh way to better understand the reason for the cross and the resurrection. Understanding God’s love better than the year before. Denying ourselves so we’re less likely to deny Him. Giving up our car certainly wasn’t voluntary and if given the chance to go back, I’d certainly change things to try to keep it from happening. But, it has driven us to our knees. Again. But, we are not on our knees in agony and despair. Yes, we have asked God for mercy and a miracle. But we are on our knees in gratitude; knowing things could have been worse, knowing this could have happened somewhere else where we didn’t have a place and a group to support us through this. We are on our knees recognizing that God is still God and He is still good and that somehow this will be okay.

 

My 11 eleven-year-old said it well last night. “Mommy, I am sorry our car got stolen and I wish it didn’t happen. But I thought I would be a lot more sad and upset than I am. It’s okay. I just know it’s going to be okay.” So true. We all wish yesterday had played out differently and we have shed tears and we have felt pangs of anxiety and we have replayed the moment multiple times. But overall, we are at peace. Every time I remember something that was in the car I feel sad and frustrated. Every hour that goes by without news that our car has been found leaves me a bit angry- but mostly because I’m angry that people can get away with this.

The Prado was a great vehicle to tow behind Samson.

But, we can rest in Him. God knows all about this. He knows what the best plan is now, moving forward. It’s a huge financial loss. It’s an emotional blow. It’s a terrible inconvenience. And it’s messed up our ministry projects schedule. But somehow, some way, in His way, it will work out and it will be okay.

A Well-Dressed Warrior

God's Word

They say the biggest battlefield we face is the one in our minds. My mind sure has been full of emotional battle scenes during the past month. Anger warring with happiness, patience fighting to overcome impatience, anxiety trying to stifle peace, the desire for justice trying to overcome grace. The battles have been fierce and sometimes unpredictable. And sometimes, I’ve thought a battle was won and over, just to have a skirmish sneak up on me the next day. For a peace-loving, conflict-avoiding gal like me, this dwelling in the midst of a battlefield has been quite an exhausting trial.

I’ve been frustrated with God, frustrated with the truck, frustrated with the company, frustrated with my husband for not being as frustrated as me (!), frustrated with myself. Why is the process taking so long? Why isn’t it going much like we hoped? Why does Jon have to spend so many hours working on it when we paid someone else to do this? Why can’t we just make plans for our next ministry projects and get on with it? What is the purpose in all this waiting? Why can’t I handle this with more grace? Why do I worry about how in the world we’re going to pay for all this? Do our supporters wonder what’s taking us so long? Is this crazy dream for a ministry too crazy to do? If we’re really following the dream God gave us, why isn’t it working out very well?

Of course, in all my mental and emotional battling, I seem to forget so many things. Like the many ways God has confirmed this dream throughout the last few years. How God’s not on the same tight schedule we always seem to think we need to operate on. The fact that this life is not all about us and that other people can be taught and can grow through this experience. And why in the world would I think that following God’s plan for our lives means everything will fall into place easily and painlessly? Where is the Biblical backing for that fallacy in my thinking?? Why do I so easily buy into the cultural lie that doing the thing I’m supposed to do will be all easy sailing and that struggles and trials are a sign that I’m off track?

A few weeks ago, I was wallowing in the “woe is me” swamp. I was caught up in the injustice of it all and struggling with doubts that any of this even makes any sense. I was losing confidence in the dream God gave us, thus losing confidence in Him. But, like the good and caring God that He has proven to be repeatedly, God spoke to my heart in such a special way.

I pity-partied myself right into church on Sunday, feeling alone and unnoticed. And the sermon was about God-given dreams. Of course. And didn’t I need that reminder that God-sized dreams for His followers are wonderful? And hazardous. Full of blessings and struggle. But, in the end, the wonder and the blessings out-weigh the hazards and struggles. Truths I knew. Truths I’ve spoken aloud to others. But truths that I so needed to be reminded of- right then!

Of course, being the stubborn gal that I am, my attitude wasn’t instantly changed with the flip of a switch. But we left church with me mulling over the Scriptures read, the truths spoken, the challenge ringing in my ears. I chewed on the words and let the truth slowly trickle down into the wounds of my heart. And as I stole a few minutes away from my family to do a bit of shopping, God sealed the deal for me.

The top of my shopping list carried the letters- P. J. See, it’s winter in South Africa and we’ve been stuck here far longer than we expected to be and we do not have much in the way of warm clothes. It’s been cold. We’ve been cold. And I was sick of it and don’t you know my “woe is me” was a cold one because I could add being ill-prepared for the climate to my list of complaints! So, I had determined to just buy myself some slightly warmer pajamas and be done with it already! Why suffer needlessly in a thin tank top? Of course, finding PJs I like has proven to be no easy task, so I did dread this shopping trip. But I turned the corner into the sleepwear section and the first PJs I saw were these.

If Your Dreams Don't Scare You They Ain't Big Enough
If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You They Ain’t Big Enough

Cute style that suits me. Colors I like. Cover my shoulders, without being too warm for the climate we expect to spend more time in. But the words. Any other day, I might have seen the words as one of those fluffy sayings that show up on memes and Pinterest all the time. But that day, I knew God spoke through pajamas. He knows the battlefield of the mind is often at its most heated during the dark of the night. Now I can ‘gird my loins’ appropriately. He helped me find my courage and retighten my grip on truth. From the comfort of my pajamas.

Who’s Doing the Planning?

God's Word

It’s funny have something can be both a breath of fresh air that relieves soul weariness and a slap on the face that serves as a wake-up call to an area of much needed refining. But God’s word is like that- the double-edged sword that cuts away the junk and fights spiritual battles, while at the same time being sweeter than honey and bread that feeds and nourishes.

Pile of PackingThese waiting days (weeks, months) have been a challenge, but as is typical for me, there have been ups and downs. Last week, knowing that another moving was coming quickly and that more longer term planning was needing to happen soon, I went down. I didn’t crash, but I felt a rising anxiety. Thoughts and emotions became more jumbled as I looked ahead and saw so many details clouding the way that nothing made sense. I began to worry. What if we choose X, but Y doesn’t work out well then? What if going there, makes things slow down? How can we organize another transition? What’s best for the family? What makes the most sense? How will people react to whatever we decide to do?

I’ve been reading and prayer journaling my way through the book of James during the last month. I sat up straighter as I read from the end of chapter 4. God always speaks through His word. But sometimes, I don’t notice it so much. But not this day. This was for me. For us. For now.

“Look here, you people who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4: 13-17.

All along we have sought God’s direction for our lives and ministry and as this new thing, SAMSON, has felt bigger and more complicated than we alone can cope with, we continue to seek Him and lean on Him and we rejoice greatly at the continual confirmations He’s sent our way. But we are so guilty of slipping into our own strength when it comes to making the day to day plans. Without being aware of it, we leave God to the “big” parts, and figure we are supposed to work out the rest. We come up with a timeline that we think makes sense and when nothing goes according to that timeline, we are left with doubts and discouragement.

How much we need to grow in this! Learning to lay each day, each moment, each decision, each plan at His feet first and then waiting for Him before we move forward is no easy task. We’re taught to use our own instincts, follow our guts, do what seems logical. But that’s not how God wants us to operate. Sure, He gives us wisdom and the closer to Him we grow, the more we naturally follow His heart. But He still wants us to consciously and knowingly give each and every area of our lives to Him. Every day. And not doing this? It’s a sin. Plain and simple.

Father, forgive us for the ways we have tried to “take charge” of this. SAMSON is yours. All yours!