Last weekend I walked the streets of Edinburgh, hand in hand, with my little family. It was a cherished weekend for us all to get away for a few days over Izzy’s half-term break. I was so glad to have the opportunity to take my family to the place where I lived as a student and where the Lord worked a tender call to follow Him, into my heart.
As I sat one afternoon in a coffee shop, waiting for Danny, I looked out over the city, remembering. Remembering all the times I had sat as a student, looking out bus windows, coffee shop windows, into church windows, wondering about the life that lay before me. I spent many hours wondering, and worrying, over the things that God was asking of me; to leave it all and follow Him. I had felt so small, so inadequate, so overwhelmed with the road before me, and yet so sure of the call of God on my life to obey Him at all costs. Then, one day in late May, 1997, when the desire to listen to the voice of the Lord, grew louder than all my doubts and fears, I left that beautiful city, and set off in a new direction.
While staring out the window, I was soon brought back to reality, by the giggles and excitement of Izzy and Judah who had spotted their Daddy out the window. He was coming walking up the hill grinning and waving, and they were sitting on the little window ledge, waving back for all they were worth. It was as if I was looking in on my own life, and gratitude filled my heart. Not just for this moment, but for this precious life that God has allowed me to live. For the grace He has given each step of the way to follow Him and experience so much life, that I may not have otherwise known. I had thought and prayed over the verses of the Great Commission many times during that year in Edinburgh. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel….” It burdened me, and it overwhelmed me to think that this is what God was asking of me, and yet, in fear and trepidation I obeyed. I obeyed with much fear because I hadn’t yet, fully, experienced the height nor depth of God’s love in those last seven words. “And lo I am with you always.” This has become one of the most precious promises to me in all of Scripture. God has been by my side, shepherding my heart, and meeting my every need, beyond what I could ever have hoped or imagined.
Last weekend, as I took a trip down memory lane, I was also, simultaneously, taking another look into my own soul. The truth of the matter is that 18 years later, I can still let my mind wander, worry and roam. I still feel so weak, small and totally inadequate for this life, which God has called me too. We head back to the Philippines in 8 weeks and my mind and my stomach have started to churn things over. The world is a different place than it was 18 years ago. My responsibly now as a mother weighs heavy on my heart, and soon the questions begin to roll through my mind. Are we safe when we travel? Will Izzy and Judah be lonely? What is all this moving around doing to them? How will we say goodbye again to beloved grandparents? Am I going to be able to homeschool them well?
I have been reading through the book of Exodus again, and it stings to say it, but I relate so much to those selfish, forgetful, full of worry, Children of Israel. A people who had experienced so much of the faithfulness of God, literally taking them through deserts and oceans, and yet they still complained and fretted about their food and water for each day. I often wonder how they could have doubted so much, while they had the pillar of cloud with them by day, and then the pillar of fire with them at night? How could they question their daily bread, when Almighty God was showing His very presence in the midst of them, and sending them manna from above? And yet, I do the very same. Emmanuel has come, God is with us, and He showers His grace upon me daily. So often, I want to run ahead, and gather up all the manna. I want to make sure I have more than enough. I want to know the way, before I have to walk through it, and a burden of worry rots into my soul. When we become so consumed with our own lives, wants and needs, we can miss the glorious opportunity to worship the great I AM, and experience His life in us. A life of freedom, hope, joy, contentment, peace and overflowing with gratitude for redemption.
The prayer of my heart in these weeks of transition, as we prepare to head back to the Philippines is, “Lord, still my soul to know You more today.” I highlighted this verse the other morning;
Psalm 86:11: “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy Name,”
This is, more than ever, the longing of my soul because there is no contentment found in having a divided heart, which is both trusting and yet doubting. Being tossed to and fro with every wave of worry, is not to be also steadfast in hope. How can I give thanks in my heart for God’s faithfulness in the past, and yet harbour a mind of worry for the future? He is the same yesterday, TODAY and forever, and I want to live, believing this to be true, each step of the journey. Ann Voskamp says this;
“The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God.”
I love that. When my mind and my heart are filled with worship to Jesus, there is no room for idols of worry, fear and doubt. He must increase and I must decrease is the way to live victoriously in the Kingdom of God. In surrendering ourselves, our worries, our plans and our will, we receive in abundance the precious and perfect will of God. It is easy to see the truth of this in hindsight, to hope in it for the future, but faith is believing it to be true for today. I am remembering, afresh, that the best way to live for eternity is to live in obedience and surrender to Jesus, today.
As the four of us left the coffee shop together last week, I was just so in awe of the goodness and kindness of God. Not just in the past, but here, today. What a comforting thought it is to know, that no matter what the news may report, no matter how our circumstances and responsibilities may change; God is always by our side.
This song, Still, my soul be still by Keith and Kristyn Getty, brings tears to my eyes every time, when I realise the foolishness of worry instead of resting in God alone. I hope it may bring encouragement to someone today, to keep trusting in the God, who is by your side.
Still my soul be still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fire of unexpected sorrow.
With love to all,
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God..”
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