This morning was a very special time of reflection begun during a conversation yesterday. So many people have asked over the last few months, “So are you getting excited yet?”
If you are one that has asked this you probably heard something like, “Yes, but I am still so wrapped up in my to-do list that I haven’t really had time to think about it.” There have been brief moments of excitement but the above statement has held pretty true right up through my travels. I got a little more excited when I spotted the approaching coast of Papua New Guinea through the window but then the busyness of collecting my carry-ons, moving through customs, transferring to the domestic flights and getting checked in for my last flight, and listening carefully to the gates being called in Tok Pisin (the trade language)as my departure time continued to get pushed back—in all of that I lost the excitement again. It wasn’t until I was halfway to Goroka and I began to see the mountains growing larger and steeper that I truly became excited. I have told many of you over this past year that I am “heading home to Papua New Guinea”. I could feel my whole body relax as I drew closer to my final destination. Then the plane wheels touched down and my whole being knew it…I’m home!
This is a more poignant statement than most of you will realize. You see, I have been waiting for almost 20 years for God to give me a home place. I was 18 when I first knew that God wanted me to be in full-time ministry or full-time missions. I began to focus so hard on that goal that in my immaturity I would get so frustrated when God would turn the road away from that direction. He had to teach me over time to trust Him, to listen to Him not my perceived plan (which for those of you who know me, know that having a plan is VERY important to me!), and to follow Him not a plan. When my eyes are on “Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith”, it doesn’t matter where the road turns. He’s there. That’s all that matters.
Over the past 20 years I have been learning to follow Him and hold where He puts me with an open hand, knowing that I am likely to move again in a few years, all the while asking if this is where I will be planted (or, at times, asking, “You can’t really want me planted here, do you?!” Haha!). But until this past year the answer has been a “wait”.
So often in the past several years, it has felt like every time God blesses me with a good time, He soon after blesses me with a heavy struggle. It got so that I have started cynically viewing the good things that happen as bribery because something big and hard is going to happen. Waiting for the other shoe to fall, so to speak. And there are times when this seems to be the case! For reasons of His own, God is providing me a watering hole to prepare me for the next stretch of journey and battle. I had taken to wondering lately what big troubles He has headed my way because this whole thing has gone way too smoothly. It was all coming together too well.
But today…today was different. And for the first time I see it. There is a verse in Proverbs that states, “…the blessing of the Lord and He adds no trouble to it”. I would read this with heavy skepticism, not believing this to ever be true for me. But today…today He showed me differently.
It started during a conversation yesterday with the realization that God is planting me after 20 years of prayer and wandering. This morning, I had an hour to just sit in simple quietness on a beautifully cool morning and ask God questions, thinking about how He made this come about, and was overwhelmed by His goodness.
He took me through many struggles (and they are definitely not done for life!), He taught me to grow and persevere, to see Him when all else seems lost in darkness, chaos, and confusion. He taught me to do what’s right whether I felt like it or not, and whether those facing me deserved it or not (none of you!!!! So, please, no worries there!). He taught me that my life is His to do with and use as He pleases. That perhaps I am in a situation not for my benefit as much as for someone else’s.
Then after the valleys of darkness and pain and struggle were given a time limit, He told me that I could come out of them. And when I asked Him what He wanted from me next, it was as if He, as a loving and beaming Father, asked with love and pleasure, “What do you want to do?” All that came to my mind was, “I want to go back to PNG.” And my Father, so full of grace and love, said, “Ok.”
At times, I have felt (and it is my perception NOT how He is), that He says yes with reluctance or leads to another step with firm direction. Not this time. This time my loving heavenly Father threw open the door to the play room and said, “Of course you can!” Since that time He has not ceased to provide, even when I was too tired or lazy to work on what I should have. I now see Him in the openness of so many that heard me, the generosity of those giving (even some that I am meeting for the very first time!), in the warmth with which so many have wished me well on my journeys, and in the prayers of so many sent at just the times God knew I needed to know I was prayed for! Imagine! A heavenly Father who loves you enough to ask others to pray for you! I cannot even express in words all that I am seeing or experiencing of God’s goodness from this past year but it is so clear before me now!
And then the details of packing, shipping, and traveling arrive and the goodness does not end. The things to ship fit the containers I had, family and friends were there to answer questions and help with the paperwork, I was able to find everything for my last minute purchases, travel agents were willing to wade through hours of bookings, insurances, and schedules to get me the flights I need at a great price, my car sold, and I was able to see almost everyone I wanted to before leaving! My bags stayed behind after my third flight so that I passed light through two more countries and was spared the overages after my third flight! And then I arrived! On my first full day everything was open and available to me to get set up in my house! Friends willingly took on to continue the hunt for my bags in their circuitous travel! And the excitement of so many friends, both missionaries and nationals, to see me back has amazed me!
Coming back, the debate is how permanent to make my situation, renting versus owning furnishings, dishes, etc. Then an email came. Friends I have served with here previously and who were planning to return had a change in direction and God is leading them to another country in Asia-Pacific instead. They asked if I would take as much of their stored belongings as I wanted, save the rest for another friend who is to arrive in January, and disperse what remains as needed! God providing permanency in the form of non-rented household supplies and furnishings only 2 days after I arrive!
So as I sat in quiet this morning, tears began to fall as God opened my eyes to all of His blessings given without reserve or trouble! Gifts freely and joyfully given! He gave me the gift of permanency. Peace. Assurance of His boundless love and border-less grace. He gave me a home in Himself, a job I have longed to do, and a place among family to call a foreign land home.
“But you don’t know the future,” you say. And you’d be right. But suppose God moves me tomorrow…My joy is complete with the gift of Himself that He has given me today. “But life is not all roses and earthly good things does not equal God being happy with you,” others might add. And they’d be right. This is still life on earth–hard times are the norm and when ease finds me it should surprise me, not the other way around. God also does not operate on a merit or good day/bad day scenario. But today, in all of it’s bounty, I have seen the goodness of God to me. Therefore, even if He should take it all right back and move me again tomorrow, I have had my heart’s desire and for today, I am content, overjoyed, loved, and bounded by peace!
Who is worthy to receive honor more than this God of the universe who calls me beloved and His own!!!!!!!!! Undeserved and freely given! How full my cup! MY CUP OVERFLOWS!