Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When you're feeling lost

This is a story about the Holy Spirit and...

... a pink frosted cupcake.

I've been getting a little antsy over here. The best way I can describe it is spiritual discontentment. I've been thinking a lot lately about the direction in which our family is heading - how choices we make every day reveal if we are for God or against Him. I think about whether Rob and I (and even the kids) could be doing something greater for the Lord. I have no idea what that would look like. I just have this growing anxiety that my life is slipping away and I'm not making a difference for the kingdom. Or that the kingdom is so widespread here in this church town that no one notices how bright your light shines, or whether it shines at all.

Do you get what I'm saying? Do I sound crazy?
(Please know that I consider my first and most important 'mission field' to be our family, as we raise our children and as Rob and I seek to glorify God in our marriage.)

So I started to pray every day that the Lord would actually start to speak into the emptiness that (Rob and) I have been feeling. To use the discontentment that is growing in our hearts and open our eyes to what He wants to do.

And this is where it gets interesting. In that 'I just got chills because the God of the universe is paying attention to my life and answering my prayers' kind of way. Don't you love that?

I'm at our church bookstore, buying our pastor's new book (click HERE for more info about it), and I feel led to buy an extra copy to give away. I take a phone call as I'm paying for just one copy of the book, and realize that the person calling me is the person I should give the second copy to. I throw a second book up on the counter and decide to drive right over to the person I was just on the phone with to deliver the book. She doesn't know anything about this.

An hour later, I'm standing in front of her, suddenly a little nervous about what I'm about to do. I am trying to figure out how to hand over a book that is titled "When The Bottom Drops Out", when in fact I know so very little about her and her life. Will she be offended, thinking that I assume she's in a bad place or that things are falling apart in her life? I decide to just bring it up, and after a minute or two of small talk, I simply say "I just bought my pastor's book, and he's doing a sermon series on it right now in church, and it's so good that I bought this copy to give to you. I don't know if it's something that would interest you, but..." and this is where I started to drift off and ramble, because she is now holding the book in her hands and turning it over and examining the back cover, and her eyes are filling with tears.

She says to me, "Your timing is incredible. My family is coming up on the anniversary of {a terrible tragedy}... and your timing is just incredible. I would love to read this. Thank you for thinking of me. (Scans the info about Pastor Rob.) Oh, you go to Wheaton Bible Church? We visited there once when we first moved here, but this is just confirmation that I need to give church another try."

I have never felt so humbled. The God that I serve, who I KNOW created the universe and each one of my precious babies and has written down a plan for all of my days before he even brought this world into existence showed me that He wants to use me. Such a simple but direct answer to my desperate prayers, 'please use me God! Can you use me? Can you use me here? What am I good for? Who am I here for?'

I think He was just waiting for me to turn my eyes and my whole heart towards Him.

Since then I am seeing things differently. This town? It has pretty homes and nice churches and cute shops and immaculate parks. I think it can be a wonderful place to live, but I'm also starting to see it from a different perspective.

What if you moved here from another state, a stranger disconnected from the community and without a degree from the college in town that's known across the country? What if you had no way of knowing where others that you have something in common with are gathering? What if you didn't have the time to seek them out because you're working a demanding job so that you can provide for your family? What if you were simply fleeing persecution or war in your country and you not only ended up in America, but in the town that has been rumored to have more churches per square mile than anywhere else in the country? And what if you still felt alone? What if you had nothing in common with the people all around you, and many of them claim Christianity?

What would that do to you?

I have realized that this town is not quite as bright as I once thought it was. And I have experienced the way that my light can actually shine here, but the thing is... it's not MY light. It's Him who IS light, who created light, dwelling in me and leading me into the darker places that at first glance don't appear to be very dark. Something happens and my eyes are opened by Him to see things for what they really are, and all I've done is show up and He who is in me uses me like a vessel. Pours His light out of me in surprising ways, because I didn't know there was a need (but He did) and that I could somehow step into another's suffering (by His grace) and walk with someone in a way that offers love and comfort (because it's what He has given me). I finally feel like I have an idea of how to live the gospel here.

Suddenly life here has a new meaning and depth. I am excited to pray expectantly each day, not wondering if He is going to hear my prayer or move in my heart or use me as I offer up what I am and what I have. I KNOW He hears me. I know He has it all planned out and that I have not been overlooked. While I might have questioned it before, He has made it clear.

I am His, He is for me, and He has a purpose for me. Here. Now. I don't always know what shape it's going to take, but I can trust Him each day to lead me to it. And I don't have to know in advance. It doesn't have to have a title or a box or a plan. I just have to commit my heart, my eyes, my ears, and my time to him each day. I don't have to feel lost. While I might not see the entire road ahead, He promises to be a lamp to my feet. That means He will give me just enough light to see the next step, but often no more than that.

Today it was that same friend's birthday, and again, being newer to the area, I wondered if anyone outside of the family living with her even knew about it.

I thought it was timely and important to let her know that we care - that her birthday is special and she is worth celebrating. We surprised her at the start of her day and sang happy birthday as we handed over a birthday card, flowers, and a pink cupcake. Again, the tears came to her eyes as she whispered that it was so sweet of us to think of her. I couldn't help but tear up myself, thinking the same of God. How sweet it is when He thinks of me, when He answers my prayers, when He uses me even though I can be such a mess and so oblivious.

I just kept praying that it was Him who she felt known and loved by, even though Robbie's little hands were the ones that carried her bouquet, that it was Ellie's sticky fingers that smudged the envelope as she offered her the card, and mine that gently handed over the pink frosted cupcake. We love her, but He loves her even more than we could ever begin to comprehend. I hope and pray that as she begins to feel known and loved here, that she discovers that she is known and loved by God if she doesn't already know it.

Colossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 4:2-6

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.


The Larsons said...

What a beautiful story of the Lord's work in and through you.

Kelsey said...

Ash - your words are powerful & spirit-breathed... thank you for sharing the outpourings of your heart. I so admire your passionate desire to know God, your sensitivity to others, and your deep humility. Thank you for that encouragement tonight (that I know is spurring others on in the same way) XOXO

Molly said...

What an amazing story~! :) Sometimes it really is those little tugs in our heart or head that make all the difference. We just have to quiet down the rest of the world and listen to the only voice that really matters!

Molly said...

btw, i just realized we got married the same day==just 6 years later. :)