Recently, Chris and I took seventeen of our youth to camp. I had no idea what to expect. Since I didn’t grow up in church, ‘Christian Camp’ was foreign to me. All I knew was that I was excited for our kids! Chris and I prayed for months leading up that our young people would EXPERIENCE God for themselves… that He would individually meet each one and each one would have an encounter with the Living God. He did that and soooo much more. I watched young person after young person encounter the Lord for him or herself. It was incredible.
Each day during devotion God spoke through Chris and I specifically for our youth, whether it was a word for an individual or something collective for our whole group, He never ceased to amaze me.
I’m not sure why, but I hadn’t really come expecting anything for myself. Maybe because I was just praying for strength to be all our teens needed, maybe because I was so hungry for our kids, as a youth director, to get all that they needed. I guess I just felt it was FOR them, and seeing them receive was honestly the best gift to me. However, each day during quiet time, God was speaking so much, to me, personally. I was hearing Him louder than I had in months. Life can be very loud, almost deafening at times. There really is something beautiful about shutting yourself off to hear only the voice of God. I began to get answers to questions I’d forgotten I even asked. I think it’s easy sometimes to settle… to say “I’ll get what I get and make the best of it.” I had almost forgotten what a big God I have. He’s a Father who wants me to have everything He came to bring. Not half, not some; ALL.
The preacher, Pastor Nate, opened the week up with this idea of an all inclusive resort… how if we went there and didn’t partake in all the amenities, then we weren’t really experiencing what we came for. We were actually shortchanging ourselves. It’s hard for me to admit, but I’ve kind of been living there for awhile now… I’m in this all inclusive resort that offers everything, yet I’ve been ok with just the scraps. God sent His Son to make all things new, yet I’ve been living on hand me downs. (I mean I love me a good second hand store, especially Plato’s closet, but that’s not the point I’m making.) God gives new days, but sometimes I bring the pain of yesterday into them. God gives me great joy, but sometimes I feel broken beyond repair. He has restored my soul, but can I just tell you how exhausted I am lately?! Why?! Because I’m not entering in to His joy, His rest, His mercy.
Christiano passing away was obviously the hardest, most painful thing… it still hurts all the time. I’m not saying that will ever go away. What I’m saying is that, on this journey, I’ve experienced crazy amazing joy even with the deepest, most intense, heartache. That’s the all inclusive deal… that even when things around you are falling apart, you can still have everything that Christ made available on the cross.
There are sharks even in the most beautiful oceans, but that should never stop us from swimming.
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.
But, I know it can sometimes be hard to just keep swimming; it’s almost impossible to tread water when you’re already drowning. It isn’t easy to keep dreaming of things to come and hoping for a turn around… to keep trusting and believing that somehow, some way, God will make a way… especially when nothing can be seen on the horizon and there is no clear vision in sight. When it just looks like miles upon miles of dry and barren land, an endless landscape of ruins.
Ruins – there’s that word again.
One particular area of pain for me has been my lack of clarity with our ministry, From the Ruins. And, yes, pain is the right word. When God births something in you that you are so certain of, then you begin to feel it slipping away, it’s hard. Especially when that thing is created out the very agony of losing your first born child. Of course, an alternative to the way you wish things had been, but something beautiful out of the ashes . . .
It was almost miraculous the way if first took off. People jumped on board to support, we began helping grieving families right away, I was speaking in churches on a regular basis, our grief support sessions were producing real and lasting fruit… then, it just stopped. Literally like a game of freeze tag that I never wanted to play. It’s been two years of just sitting and waiting on God, while still giving it everything I can. Honestly, it’s been like grieving Christiano all over again. This mother needs to believe… needs to know… his death is for something greater, something that will bring God the glory and keep our son’s beautiful memory alive. But, as I’ve had to do with everything in this life… I’ve spent the last two years laying it down over and over again. I don’t meant that I ever really pick it back up, but boy can it get into my feelings and start to mess with me… that’s when I have to audibly say, “Lord, I lay it down at your feet.” It’s hard, but nothing in this life is really mine… even my children.
On the third day, I happened to be wearing my From the Ruins T-shirt to a worship service. Honestly, I wear them a lot because, still to this day, I have never found a T-shirt so comfortable. I don’t even think about it when I put it on anymore. A boy named Donovan from another church came up to me on our walk to activities. He said, “Miss, your shirt really spoke to me today.” I looked into his eyes that were filled with tears and said, “Really? I’m so glad to hear that. Can you tell me about it?” Through tears, he said “I felt like God was telling me to open my bible and read the scripture on the back of your shirt, and so I did. I really believe it was for me. I believe I’m called to help people out of the Ruins.” Wow.
For those of you who don’t know, the scripture for our ministry is Isaiah 58:10-12. It says:
“And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. “And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”
I wasn’t even asking the Lord to show me anything. Yet, God used a boy I had only known three days to confirm that From the Ruins is still very much alive and well. Chris and I prayed with him and encouraged him. But, what it did for me personally, just wow.
The next day the preacher spoke about how the people in Jesus’ hometown rejected Jesus’ healing. They just couldn’t get past the fact that he was a carpenters son. Sometimes, I feel like that… like it’s those closest to us who can’t get behind the vision of this ministry. But, I have processed that hurt over the last couple of weeks. If Jesus went through something that I feel a similarity to, then hallelujah I’m becoming more like Him! Jesus didn’t let that stop Him from doing many, many, many amazing things. He focused on the work of His father, pleasing Him alone, as He only leaned on His close few. I’m learning to do the same.
What if Jesus decided to stop his ministry because of the few who didn’t support it? Because of the few who didn’t believe in Him? Where would we be?
Another bible story came to mind this week for me. It’s the story of Hagar. What if she chose to keep running? What if she never had her encounter with the Living God?
“Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?””
When we believe God sees us, it’s so much easier to see Him.
I am incredibly encouraged after last week. Encouraged to keep going. To focus my heart and fix my eyes on the One who sees me! The One I’ve also seen. I’ll take this ministry anywhere God says, anywhere the people want it. Not on my terms, but on the leading of the Lord.