Still More Excellent

Before I went to Uganda I had this blog post that I really wanted to write.  It was burned into my mind by emotion and the power of others’ writing and speaking.  I tried to write it in my mind, which it where I usually start all blog posts, but I couldn’t do it.  I had to write God Loves You first, because you needed to know that you are loved.  And then I had to write Endless Ball of Problems because you needed to know that God is not limited by your flaws.  And then I lost my passion for the post I wanted to write.  No, more than that, I felt restrained… in my mind and creatively and short on time. So I took some notes and didn’t act on them at all.

And I went to Uganda.  I realized at some point that the reason I hadn’t written my little blog post was that God hadn’t showed me the end yet.  I didn’t know this right away, but He did.

Let me begin at the beginning.  It was summer of last year, and I was on Facebook in the evening.  That’s a recipe for frustration if I’ve ever seen one.  Mostly because I have this compulsion to read each and every article, blog post, or news I see on FB.  I’m kind of insane.  This particular evening I read two blog posts that crushed me inside.  One was about the corrupt, harmful, abusive, and neglectful goings – on of an orphanage in Haiti.  The other was about the need for adopters of Eastern European special needs children, due to the severe neglect of these individuals.

It was a while ago, but I remember that something broke inside me that night, and I wept over these children in different parts of the world.  I asked God if we should move to Haiti to act on behalf of the orphans there, or if I should start the adoption process of a special needs child in Eastern Europe.  These thoughts got mixed up with the trip to Uganda, my own desire to write and someday, to speak, and the knowledge that God told my husband 8 years ago that we’re to go to Uruguay someday.  All of this bearing down upon me was extremely heavy.  And it caused a lot of anxiety.  How was I to do all of that in my lifetime?  Not that there aren’t people who haven’t accomplished that and more, but I wondered how I would have time, with all the demands of my 4 children, and how to convince my husband that we should do all this stuff, and on and on.

Finally I was a little frantic and told God, in a scared, demanding, and panicked tone that “I can’t do it all!”

I stopped to breathe.  I asked God what we should do.  He told me to do what He told me to do.  Go to Uganda.  Write stuff.  Prepare for the day when He tells us to move to South America.  Love God.  Love people.  He assured me that He knows all the needs of all the people in the world, and that He is calling people to fill those needs, but some people don’t do all they are called to do.  I need to trust God, and I need to do whatever it is He tells me to do.   I need to be available to God, and willing to do anything He asks of me.  I told Him that if He wants us to adopt or to move anywhere in the world, I will do what He asks.  I know it won’t always be easy, and I may need very loud confirmation of what He’s asking, in order to be willing to fight for it, but if I’m sure it’s what He wants us to do, I’ll do it.

That week one of our pastors talked about praying “Shovel Prayers”.  He pointed out that sometimes we pray and just ask God to give us what we want, but there are prayers we can pray that are like a teenager asking their parents for a shovel for Christmas, because they want to be involved in the work of their parents.  They want to help shovel snow.  Parents are not going to pass up the opportunity to gratify wishes like that.  God also wants us to take up the work He is doing, and He wants us to pray in that direction.

At two or three different times this past summer I heard people speak about our roles in the Body of Christ, and I participated in a short study on the same topic.  If you’re unaware, you should know that all Christians (by this I mean Christ-Followers, as differentiated from people who say they are Christians but don’t actually care to do what Jesus said to do) are part of a huge living entity, called the Body of Christ.  It’s sometimes called the Church, or the Bride of Christ, but all these are just attempts at naming the co-dependent, interconnected nature of all people who have bound themselves to Jesus eternally.

God has given us each a unique role, and He expects us to use our talents, abilities, and interests to accomplish His good work on this planet.  We are to be Jesus’s physical person on the Earth, powered by His Spirit to do, think, feel what He would if He were physically here.  The only difference is that there are millions of us all over the world, and there was only one man Jesus.  (“And you will do even greater things than these…”)  In short, each person is equally important in the accomplishment of God’s beautiful plans in and for this world.  If any person neglects to do what they can where they are, we all suffer.  Paul the Apostle even takes time to mention the parts we don’t see at work, and how they may be the most important.

All of these things pressed upon me this summer, and I felt a little guilty that I didn’t write about it at the time.  But, as I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t.

So I went to Uganda.  Do you know what I saw there?  Every person I met at GSF (Good Sheperd’s Fold) and all the members of our team – with their differing personalities and abilities – got to use their gifts.  Nurses, an ear doctor, moms, sewing instructors, a sewing machine enthusiast, an incredible organizer, teachers, photographers, cooks and bakers, a massage therapist, a woman passionate about everyone having access to clean water, a woman passionate about all women having access to proper hygiene.  So many interests developed over such a great span of time all used to help, encourage, lift, and give hope.  It was truly beautiful.  God knew all the things He wanted to do through us while we were there, and He chose us each individually and carefully, and we each said, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)  I had no idea it was going to be such a blessing to see God’s (sometimes funny) choices at work, but it was astounding!  As I mentioned in Worth It (Uganda Part 3) I spent much of my time in Uganda feeling like God was dragging me around by the hand and pointing out the beautiful things He’s doing.  I felt this as I saw my team and the many staff of GSF at work.

You may or may not be wondering what I am planning to do now.  Now that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has a plan to use my gifts to benefit the world.  And now that I am home from Uganda and don’t have anything else on the radar. Well, whether you want to know or not, I will tell you.

I have been feeling pulled into women’s ministry on some level.  I’m not sure what that will look like, or where it will come into being, but I would love to do it, and a few things have led me to believe I might be good at it.  This is not boasting. In fact, I felt as if God was showing me this last year even though I was not really ready to believe in myself.

In an effort to become ready for that work, I decided to sign up for a class at my church.  My church offers Bible school classes that are accredited through a Bible college in…Nebraska? Somewhere anyway.  I applied to the college and was accepted.

Then, for two weeks I thought and thought about what I had decided to undertake, and I felt that God was gently asking me to put this off.  To be a mom only for a year or two or more right now.  I felt as if He was whispering, “And I will show you a still more excellent way”.  What I desired to do was good, but He has something even better in store for me right now.

I knew that that sentence “And I will show you a still more excellent way” was the last sentence in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, a chapter in the Bible all about spiritual gifts and knowing what they are and developing them.  It is the last sentence before Paul starts in with the love chapter of the Bible “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…”  I was discouraged the day I looked it up in the Bible to refresh my memory of it, but while reading it I felt encouraged and certain that God thinks that my desire to develop my spiritual gifts is a good desire, an excellent desire.  But He has a still more excellent way that I need to learn to walk in.

When I read 1 Corinthians 13, (a chapter, I confess, I sometimes avoid) I am very aware of the fact that I really don’t know how to love at all.  Nor do I know how to listen to God’s voice.  The past 2 months have been full of me making a whole bunch of very small, but added up, major changes in my life that have been very beneficial to me and my family.  Some of these things have been whispered to me for years and I ignored God. I started to work harder and treat my home differently, I switched homeschool curricula, I signed up to take a 30-day kindness challenge and it is showing me what I am like, I started to look differently at my kids to see the maturity in my littles that I sometimes forget is there.  Lily, 16 months old, loves to help.  Caleb, her twin, is in trouble all the time for climbing on things (usually the dining room table)  but when I told him a couple of days ago that I didn’t want him to dig all the Tupperware out of the drawer, he, without a pause, put it all back and closed the drawer!  I have been speeding up my approach to work and trying to eradicate all procrastination, while trying to slow down to see what is right here in front of me, and to learn to listen to the still, small voice of God.

I have been doing very little “ministry” and that is hard for me, because I like to feel like I am doing something big and impactful, but God has directed me to be small right now, and I believe that is important too.  Jesus became small for us, and He changed the whole world.  I hope that God will increase and I will decrease.  And I know I need to be faithful in the small things before God will entrust to me bigger things.

I am hoping that this year (and every year after) God will teach me how to love. Patiently, kindly, without envy,  without boasting, free of arrogance or rudeness, without irritation or resentment, rejoicing in the truth, and bearing, hoping, believing, and enduring all things.  Without fail, to love.

I am hoping that when (and if) He does give me the green light to take Bible classes, that they will just be a beautiful complement to the love He has developed in me.  I am hoping that whatever ministry I undertake will be so infused with His love that people will be fully drawn to Christ, not drawn to me because of whatever talents I have.

I am also hoping that God will help me learn to listen to Him so that I don’t waste my time doing things that He isn’t in, and so that I will stop any wrong action or reaction that isn’t in keeping with His caring, patient, honest style.  I have a long way to go, and sometimes the thought of the work ahead of me is discouraging, but I am trusting that the God who spoke the earth into existence can speak into me a still more excellent way.

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