Teacups in the Jungle

Life stories from a missionary mama

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13

When I left college in Edinburgh, to attend Bible School in England, with the intentions of, God willing, going to a far off country to be a missionary, I was terrified in so many ways. Little old me, traveling to the uttermost parts of the earth to share the news of the gospel. I had no idea how, but I knew why I was going: because God wanted me to go and I wanted to do His will. I chose this verse, Philippians 4:13, for my very first prayer card (which was a very cool, black and white bookmark, with my passport photo, as the picture!) This was a verse I held on to many times as I looked ahead to the future and to all the unknowns that were staring me down.  In and of myself, the idea of me heading off on my own, as a 19 year old, to be a missionary seemed so intimidating, but God had called me and, without any doubt in my heart and mind, I knew by His strength I could go. So, off I went, step by step into the unknown, following hard after the Lord.
Fast forward 17 years and I find myself in a little village in the jungle of the Palawan, married to my dear husband from California, who I met along the way, and living with our two little loves in our “house on the hill.” We are thrilled to be here in this place, living this life, as a family. The “uttermost parts of the earth” is not a foreign place anymore, it has become our home. The jungle has become familiar territory and sharing the gospel has become our way of life. The unknown that once terrified me, has become my safe and comfortable. Missionary life is our normal.  This week the Lord brought this familiar verse before me, not as a verse to claim grand possibilities for the future, but a verse to live out, right here and now. I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I know He can take me through places I didn’t think I could ever walk through, but what I hear loud and clear this week is this “am I?” Am I living this life through Christ who strengthens me, or am I living on my own abilities, within my comfort zone and not depending on Him to work and move through my feeble hands and my small words. I have been mulling this thought over for a few days, paying attention to my thoughts, and asking the Lord to search my heart and show me that my weaknesses and failures are not to be avoided, but to be embraced by His strength.
I was thinking along these lines when Izzy and I decided to have an impromptu afternoon tea-date. Little brother was sleeping and it was a Friday afternoon worth celebrating, as we had completed another week of homeschooling. I was thrilled to have, apparently, managed to teach her something this week and she was thrilled, (and jumping up and down), to have read her first book! We love to celebrate the small moments at our house and cake seems to be one of our love languages, so naturally hot tea, with a slice of cake, seemed like a great way to end the week. As we do with all our tea dates, we got out the tablecloth, the napkins and then, on the spur of the moment, I decided to get down two special cups, normally just for display on my little shelf. These teacups are from a little place in N.Ireland where my Mum, Dad, Danny and I have enjoyed many special breakfasts together. The last time I was home, my Mum had given them to me as a gift and I had wrapped them in lots of bubble wrap and carried them all the way back here, to the jungle.
As Izzy excitedly set the table, eyeing the cake, I washed the teacups. They were covered in dust from sitting for months, unused on my shelf. As I stood at the kitchen sink cleaning them off, I thought back to this little blog post I was writing and how we can sometimes treat or “use scripture” as I was using my teacups. There are certain, well known verses that we love to quote and keep for special occasions, we often like to frame them and display them on the walls of our home, right there above the fireplace. We write them on our prayer letters, engrave them on clocks and stamp them on cards. But, as I cleaned off those beautiful teacups, I thought surely, these wonderful verses are not to be kept for special occasions, not just to be highlighted in our Bibles, but to be lived out daily in the nitty-gritty of our everyday decisions and desires.
Instead of viewing Philippians 4:13 as a inspirational verse for big events or one to be tucked away for our future dreams, maybe we need to take it down and live it out today. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us….but are we? This verse isn’t a promise to be able to accomplish whatever we want and claim God’s strength to help us through. No, it is so much better. It is a testimony, that in every circumstance, whether we have much, or we have little, we can live contented, joyful and fully satisfied by the presence of Christ. It is to live out my days, with the inclination of my heart leaning on Him, so I am ready to do “even this” for His glory.
As I home school my little girl, seeking to teach her more than just the letters in the alphabet, am I depending on my hours of research on the computer, or am I spending time with the Lord about it in prayer? Am I asking Him to take my moments of impatience, my hasty words, and to give me a spirit of gentleness and meekness as I seek to raise my kids for His glory? What about as I get the merienda (coffee break) ready for the ladies outreach; am I more concerned with getting the cakes and the crackers ready, or I am bringing each lady before the Lord, asking that God will work in their hearts, drawing them to Himself? When I am using my time and energy to impress or to inspire others on my own strength, it will all be in vain. I never want to have given my all to the Lord, only to take it back again, one small day at a time.
John 15:5: “..for without me you can do nothing.”
This is truth; I need the Lord, every minute, of everyday. Practically speaking in my own life, I know  when I am depending on the Lord and when I am just going through the motions, by how often I am talking to Him about the details of my day. If I believe that apart from Him I can do nothing, then I will bring everything to Him in prayer. Just as there is nothing too great to seek God’s help in, there is nothing too small, that He can’t take and use for His great glory. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by my failures, or even dazzled by achievements or successes; I want to live as one who rejoices that my life, my moments and my days have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb.
Philippians 4:13 is a great verse to frame on a wall, but it is a greater verse to take down into the depths of our heart. To mull around in our minds and to chose to live out daily, to let it’s truth sink down into the crevices of our regular lives, meet us right there in our normal routines, and to challenge us to reach out in dependence on Jesus, for His ultimate glory.
Praising God for redemption tonight.
With love from the jungle,

One thought on “Philippians 4:13 – Just for Display or a Way of Life?

  1. Sarah says:

    Love this. And I love you. And I miss you. And I'm gonna try and think of this each time I dust, as a reminder that I need Him, His Word, and His strength every moment of every day.


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