A couple of months ago I kinda fell apart. I felt spiritually drained, malnourished to say the least. We had been in Sulawesi maybe a month. Lots of transition. Lots of chaos. I just came to this point where I was a mess.
Whatever I’d not taken care of in my heart for months on end had finally come to the surface. It was ugly. Lots of yelling, tears, and all that comes with too much self and not enough Jesus. I can’t believe it’s already September and I’m just now feeling that God is working and forming something fresh in my heart.
Early in the process, it just became really clear that I wasn’t take of my spiritual health. It’s easy to do. You just kind of get busy and blame it on other stuff.
What is true, is that we’re a bit more isolated from the usual sources of encouragement that just kind of naturally rub off on you in your home culture. Even if you’re not actively listening, going to church provides a sense of community and you usually pick up on some bit of truth.
Sadly, that’s like taking a prison ration of food when there’s a feast in front of you. You can survive on rations for a while anyway, but it’s definitely not healthy. Being away from home, we’ve got to search for spiritual food that fills our souls every single day. I wasn’t really doing that.
I don’t think I’d listened to a sermon in months. Plus, I was trying to replicate my old habits of quiet time with God, except with a growing baby who was constantly demanding my attention. The pressures of life here just didn’t allow me to cover up my spiritual need with comfy/feel-good things–the heat alone stripped away my coping mechanisms.
The first thing the Spirit convinced me of was that I needed to go back to the basics. Put God first. Give Him the priority spot in my life. I didn’t know how that would look.
At that time, Finn would wake up around 5:30 and scream until I finally dragged myself out of bed at 6 to go get him. I figured God wouldn’t ask me to get up any earlier, because that was ludicrous. But the Spirit reminded me that I could grumble in bed for a half an hour, or get up, talk to God about it and then go get Finn at 6 just the same.
I started journaling again–just real, honest thoughts to God about whatever was going on. It was not a pretty process. But God knew I’d wandered off long enough. Two weeks after that, we went through a huge trial with a dear friend. God knew I’d never had been able to survive emotionally if I wasn’t already drawing from His abundant strength every day.
So, that small 20 minute slot in my morning lead to God beginning to shine light into other areas of my life, little by little–very slow and kind, like the Good Father that He truly is! At the time a sweet family was staying with us on a visa trip because the guest house was full. She suggested some sermons that she had been listening to throughout the day. It was just a way to keep the flow of spiritual truth into her life. I tried it and found them refreshing and practical.
What’s really neat is that our relationships are beginning to grow with our national coworkers to the point where we’re beginning to be able to mutually encourage one another. This is huge, but it’s still in the works, especially as our language struggles to reach into that heart level of communication. Pray for these relationships to really take root and begin to flourish so that we can minister to one another as a body.
Just last week, I started reading Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality while nursing Finn. I’d assumed it was impossible to read something thicker, especially with my daily combination of mom brain and language brain. Of course, I have to read and re-read it in little bits until it sticks, same with my Bible reading these days.
One thing Schaeffer talks about is the contrast of a thankful versus coveting heart. A thankful heart can stand the test of time through waves of trials and upheaval …a coveting heart will not. A coveting heart wants what it doesn’t have. It often implodes and takes all sorts of relationships and things down with it, leaving destruction in its wake.
That was me back in June. That was me every day that I didn’t reach into the deep well of life and take water from it. That is me when I don’t feast at the abundant table that had been set before me and instead chose a stale bit of bread as sustenance for a day’s battle.
I don’t naturally cultivate thankfulness, but that is what my heart needs to survive here. So, here’s a start to a much needed change in perspective:
>I’m thankful for friends I can be real with. There are about 5 people I can be 100% honest with anytime who still get me. That’s super important for accountability. They also point me back to Jesus rather than letting me get away with things.
>Thankful for Chip Ingram’s sermon app. Easy, free access to practical truth that impacts my daily life during this season.
Thankful for our support crew. We have people from all over giving to God on our behalf, providing for our daily needs. We have people printing our newsletters and mailing them out for us. People send us care packages! People handle stateside business for us, whether its at the NTM home office or my mom keeping up with things like banking and jury duty.
Others write us notes and send us emails reminding us that we are thought of and loved! We don’t always have time to reply, but each of those encourages our hearts immensely. Our prayer team (83 people right now) has been incredible. Knowing that other saints are lifting our requests before the Lord, does something tangible in my heart to where I really do breathe easier. The truth is we couldn’t be here or survive without them.
>Thankful for Andrew Peterson’s music that helps untangle parts of my soul that are wrestling with the injustice I see around me, and reminding me of the reality of our future hope.
>I’m thankful for Finn. He has radically changed my whole world. He’s the hardest and best thing simultaneously. I love watching him learn and grow.
I read something in a book recently that totally resonated. A mom had been struggling to get some quiet time in with God but she was always getting interrupted. After a while, she realized she didn’t have an hour, but she did have a moment to spend with Him. She would thank him while changing diapers, while cooking, etc.
After a while she said, “Before having kids, I had compartmentalized God, sticking Him into time slots labeled Bible Study, Quiet Time, and Church. Now the compartment walls had fallen down. God had spilled over into every moment of my life. Ironic isn’t it? It took not having an hour with God to realize that I had the whole day with Him.” Diapers Pacifiers and other Holy Things by Lorraine Pintus.
>I’m thankful for my husband. This past year of being in a new country as well as being new parents has not been easy. He has been a steady and patient leader throughout. We just made it to 7 years and my heart is so grateful for who he is and what God is doing in an through him.
I spent the last month working on handwriting our vows and it gave me time to really think through the promises we made and what they meant. It has brought my heart to a thankful place indeed.
>Thankful for a God who isn’t telling me, “Hey Grace you’d better shape up or you’re never gonna make it once I up the pressure–aka once you’re interior and more comforts are stripped away.” Instead , He’s slowly working in my heart, cleaning out the ugly parts of self, compelling me by His magnificent promises and a future hope.
He’s teaching me about what really counts. He’s teaching me to love the fish seller who always wants to swindle me. He’s teaching me that my way isn’t always the best/right way. He’s teaching me to pray first rather than problem solving as my initial response. He’s showing me that every sin no matter how small, cost His Son His life. He’s showing me that it’s okay when He exposes my sin to the light, so I can be free of it and be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus. He’s showing me how much strength and love He can pour into my thirsty heart if I’ll just come to Him.
Pray for us dear saints as He continues this work in and through us.