The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
In March 1973, I entered into a personal relationship with my God when I understood for the first time what the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ meant for me. This momentous occasion marked a new beginning, a journey into discovering the depths of God’s love for me and for each and every member of His creation. There was so much I did not know at the time, so much that had transpired in my life that brought about effects in my choices and in my living that I simply did not understand. I do not know if there were those who tried to explain to me the things I needed to know to walk in the freedom that had been provided for me, but if they did, I did not have the ears to hear their instruction. In many ways I feel like much of my journey so far has been through the wilderness. And now, this journey is nearing the 40 year mark. Amazing! I definitely identify with Moses and the children of Israel as they neared their entry into the promised land!
I have seen glimpses. I have scaled peaks that looked down on it. I have been given revelations into what is coming. Little by little I have been given what seemed to me to be random pieces of a vision. Pieces that I had no clue what to do with. In hindsight things are looking much clearer, though. I have been being prepared and readied for the next stage of the journey – taking and receiving the fullness of God’s provision and the inheritance I hold in His promises and in His Presence!
In the spring of ’78 I returned home after a year at Capernwray Bible School in England. God had done much in my life in that 5 short years of knowing Him. And my year at Capernwray had been one of great teaching and experiencing Him in new ways. When I came back home, I knew I needed a fresh vision of what He wanted to do in my life. So I fasted and prayed for several days and begged of God to give me a revelation. He did. But I didn’t have a clue what it meant.
He first took me to Ezekiel 37 and the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. Great! I wondered how that picture could possibly relate to my life. When I asked, all I got was Habakkuk 2:1-3 – I was to watch and wait patiently for the vision to be fulfilled. Even better! Now, I had a vision I had no clue as to what it meant, and instruction to wait patiently. (Not my strong suit!) I wish I could say I watched and waited with unwavering faith and trust and that my life always reflected the glory of the Lord and the fruit of living a pure, godly life. Nope, didn’t happen that way.
It would be far more accurate to say that I moved forward in faith a few steps, and then backwards a few, stagnated for a time, floundered with doubt and confusion and decisions I would come to regret. But even in my imperfection and wandering ways, God has been always been faithful and always showed Himself to me and drawn me back into His Presence to teach me more about Himself and His character. Amazing grace!!!
As I struggled with finding “my purpose” and just living life as it was, I had the opportunity to return to Capernwray in 1982 to serve with the Summer Team doing outreach all over England, Scotland, and Wales, and in the process to clearly hear God’s direction about a relationship I was in at the time. The relationship answer was a resounding no. The ministry opportunity during the summer and then on into the fall stretched my faith and fed my hunger and thirst for God. But I still did not know what God wanted from me. I had a very small vision for what I could possibly do – and it was completely wrapped up in being defined as a wife and mother; but I had no man, which was kind of necessary according to the definition of both wife and mother.
I was somewhat discouraged, maybe even a little disillusioned, when I returned home. Not too long after I returned, a dear friend and mentor commented that statistically not every woman would marry (I think this is where my brain went into shock and then into defiance) and probably something about how I should focus on me and my relationship with the Lord and what He might do with and through me – just me, not me and my husband. Unfortunately I have to admit that sent me into a tailspin. I met someone, accepted the surface appearances without question, and was married within about nine months of that proclamation.
Was I ever in for a bumpy ride and a lot of heartbreak. However, I knew what was “required” of a “good, Christian wife” and put all my energy and effort into fitting that bill. I even packed up my 2 young daughters (3 and 20 months old), everything we could fit into our allotted luggage limit, and returned to Capernwray in 1987 for a third time, so my husband could attend Bible School and not feel like he was something less than, less equipped, less knowledgeable than I was (his assessment, not mine). Then, in 1996, I agreed to move far from home, to Lynden, Washington, again to help my husband find himself and his own identity and to try to salvage our desperately broken marriage.
At this point, please notice the focus I had here – I, my effort, my willingness, my knowledge, my understanding, my wisdom, my ability to fix things and make it all better for everyone = my failure. I discovered there simply was not enough of anything in “I” to make reality any different than it was.
In 1999, six children and sixteen years with a difficult marriage later, I found myself divorced and a single mom raising those six children (aged 2-12 when he left) some 3,000 miles from home. 3,000 miles and a very different culture to the one I grew up with in the Deep South. 3,000 miles and no one to come and step in and provide relief from the demands of six kids, all the meals, a home, 2+ acres, animals, fruit trees, gardens, and all the challenges life throws at us.
Again, I wish I could tell you I triumphed through with grace and with unwavering faith and trust and that my life always reflected the glory of the Lord and the fruit of living a pure, godly life. Nope, didn’t happen that way – again. But, I can say that the process of looking within and trying to understand what in me contributed to the failure began. Began, only began. But every journey must begin somewhere. And I would say that my openness to search my own heart and life and experiencing God’s healing began at this point.
There were still bumps in the road, decisions I wish I could un-make. Choices which still cause me to cringe inside and cry out to God, thanking Him for His mercy and grace and willingness to forgive. Choices which fuel my desire for redemption and my hope in God’s heart for resurrection. Yes! Even in my greatest failures, God’s faithfulness still wins. His love still wins. It is His kindness that leads me to repentance and restoration.
In the very midst of my most broken moments, God still showed up. Amazing grace!!! He still poured out His love in my life. He still spoke to me and called me to Himself and began to reveal Himself to me in a whole new way – as husband and provider and the One Who loves me unconditionally and completely and as father to my children. I began to deal with the brokenness of my own heart that stayed barely hidden beneath the surface. I began to be able to identify my own need to belong and the fact that I had never truly felt that secure sense of belonging anywhere. And my Father began to show me that the only place I could ever have that sense of belonging perfectly realized was in His Presence. Another beginning.
In the midst of my desperation, I found myself back in school at our local community college. Homeschooling my kids had been ripped out of my hands, and with it my sense of identity and purpose. I went back to college thinking I would earn the certificate I needed to be a teacher’s aide. Then I could at least be on my kids’ schedules. But what I found was an even deeper purpose and calling and I went on to university to earn my B.A., focusing on God’s design for “educating” – not just talking school, but all of life. At one of the most liberal colleges in America, I was able to write my degree based on the principles of Proverbs 24 – a direct revelation and gift to me from the hand of the Father! Out of that revelation came the A.R.T. model I have shared with you in previous posts (check out the Psalm 103 posts to see it in action).
Still, the revelations in regard to the vision seemed random and I had no idea what to do with them or how they could possibly fit together. But I had a sense that they did indeed fit and that at the right time I would be able to see it, just not yet.
Then, two years ago I remarried. And totally lost focus again. I slipped right back into that “good, Christian wife” mode and started to lose sight of all that God had revealed up to that point. My focus became all about my husband and his needs and his finding his way and discovering his identity. None of which is a bad thing in itself, it was what I allowed in my self that was the problem. I still did know how to honor and respect the thing God was doing in me when it collided with what my husband wanted or needed or asked of me. I had learned a little bit, but had so much more to learn about the need for healthy boundaries and honoring God by respecting and caring for what He had put in me. As I saw my focus being drawn further and further away, I realized what was happening and my need to examine and change my “learned” way of being in relationship.
My husband and I separated. In the face of fear and great trepidation, I decided to continue with my application to grad school and to continue seeking God’s direction for the vision that was growing inside me. One year ago I was accepted to the Counseling Psychology Program at Mars Hill Graduate School. I started classes in the fall. With each course and each interaction this past year, my vision has grown and I have received greater revelation for what it all means and what I am supposed to be doing with it all. And now, I have completed my first year and looking forward to my second, even as I draw ever closer to that forty year mark.
God is faithful. His love never fails. His mercies truly are new every morning. And, yes, He even rejoices over each and every one of us with singing. Not because any of us deserves it, but because God is who He is, and He has created us in His image. And simply put, He knows right where we are, warts and all, and He loves us infinitely! Enough to never give up on remaking us in the image of His Son and revealing Himself, in all His glory, through us, in our imperfections!
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 ESV