Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Hard Truth About Real Miracles and Answered Prayers


Miracles. Answered Prayers.
I talk about them.
I think about them.
I hope for them.
I tell stories of them.
I claim them, even, from time to time.
But some days, I fear them.


While January may soon be over, I'm still mulling a bit about last year.
It was a big year for us.
That's an understatement......it was enormous.

We dealt with a full year of electricity grid load-shedding.
We had months at a time when we never had electricity on for more than 24 hours at a time.
We had weeks when the lights were off for more hours than the lights were on.
This is an inconvenience God has led us to live with {we have no back-up power source}.
We prayed for the government to fix the situation.


The first three months of the year were spent getting the last few pieces in place to formally organize our first Bible study into a full church.
Six years worth of work.
More than six years worth of prayers.
We dealt with hard days, long nights, oppression, trials, disappointments.
We were in a constant spiritual battle.


After two-and-a-half years of praying for healing, we found out that Lili would need heart surgery.
God wanted her surgery to be in Ghana.
We took the happy pictures in the days leading up to the operation.
Wondering if these would be the last pictures we'd have together.
The morning I let them pull her from my arms and carry her into the operating theatre was one of the most terrifying things I've ever had to do.
Watching her fear-filled eyes as her body was racked with the pain of healing.
Juggling the full care of Lili in the hospital with the care of the rest of the family at the Missionary Guest House across town.
We begged God for strength, for miracles.


We made some drastic changes in our diet.
We needed cooking equipment we didn't have, things that were very costly and difficult to ship.
I was afraid to pray for these things.


We were given two months to find a new place for the church meet.
We hunted for two months and found nothing.
We prayed, and worried, and prayed, and searched, and prayed some more.
We desperately needed a miracle.


God answered every single one of these prayers.
He piled miracle on top of miracle.

He did not give us the electricity we wanted, but he gave us the grace we needed to endure the tests.
He gave us the physical strength we needed, though many nights we didn't sleep much.
He taught us a good deal about patience along the way, too.

Biblical Baptist Church was born in March.
This group of baptized believers chose to join themselves together to reach Ghana and the world for Christ!

Lili had her heart surgery.
We survived the long trips and the rotating twelve hour shifts at the hospital or with the family and the difficult recovery and the follow-up appointments.
Lili had a perfect check-up with her pediatric cardiologist in December.
God gave us all the money we needed to pay for the surgery and the two week stay in the capital, plus enough left over to buy our first family car in Ghana!

God provided every last piece of cooking equipment I needed {plus a few extras I wanted!} for mere pennies from a family that was leaving the field.
We also got almost their entire library of living books, some future curriculum, a fresh set of cloth diapers {as our set was about rags after three babies}, and an almost-new, much-needed refrigerator.

On the Saturday before our last day to meet at the public school, God led us to the perfect place for the church.
An excerpt from our most recent prayer letter....

"Just one and a half blocks away from our current location was a private school complex that had closed down a year and half before, and the owner was willing for us to rent the property. Five minutes later, we were looking around the property and talking about the situation. To make the process of obtaining land in Africa less tedious to you American readers, I will tell the outcome. We were allowed to meet the following Sunday and were able to meet the proper owner of the land. After meeting the elderly gentlemen, he agreed for us to rent the facility for five years AND told us that we could extend the time of rental to as many years as the church wants, whenever the church has the funds to do so. He also agreed to never increase the price, while also paying for the documents to be recorded and signed by the local court system so that they would be binding and no family members could have them changed. Before our move, the church was using two classrooms of a public school {which were only available on Sundays, plus the complex was used by other churches}..., but the Lord has now provided us with a private complex that includes three finished rooms (joined so they can be used as an auditorium), one storage room, and three half-finished classrooms that can be used for Sunday school rooms and other things, along with a spacious compound,
for less rent than at the school! {For those of you thinking that this is typically cheap African prices, this is a miracle. The government schools are the cheapest rentals I have seen until now).
This whole matter has been a great blessing.... Our church has a great location, with a great future, for an unbelievable price, and they {the church members} made all the decisions and funded it all themselves."


Our God miraculously answered all these prayers.
Yet.......
as this new year stretches out before me, I'm afraid.

I'm afraid, because I've learned much about myself.
I'm afraid, because I know I don't pray for the things I think I can get for myself. I don't pray for help when I think I can do things myself.
I'm afraid, because it is easy to think that I don't need miracles when the seas are smooth and the sun is shining.
When all is well, who needs a miracle?

I'm afraid, too, because I've learned the hard truth about real miracles and answered prayers this last year: I've learned that they only come out of great need.

It's hard to be in need.
It's painful.
It's scary.
It's uncontrollable.
And that is the exact place God wants me to be.
The place where I grow in faith, and He is glorified.

So in this new year, I must choose to surrender everything to Him again.
I must give up my wants, my needs, my rights.
I must allow myself to be in great need.
And when I'm willing to go to those hard places, I can know there's a miracle just ahead.





Tuesday, January 13, 2015

For the Days {Or Year} When All Seems Dark.......


Some years start out bursting with excitement and anticipation.
And other years?
They loom ahead filled with a vague sense of foreboding, leaving one to wonder what might be waiting around the bend.


Since the turn of this year I've struggled with a nagging worry, a pull towards doubt about what this year may hold.
I have no valid reason to think this way, yet it is a path my mind keeps treading, a rut I seem to keep slipping back into.

I pull out my camera to hunt for the beauty, but almost by force I keep clicking the nob back into the harsh lights of black and white.
My will and my emotions see-saw back and forth, one on top and then the other.



It suits my life right now, this gritty film grain.
These moments I'm living right now feel more like a slow-motion, stop-gap, old family film reel than an exciting modern production.
My days are filled with small things: breakfasts, messes, prayers, toys, books, baths, laughs, sighs, tears, crayons, screams, colds, dust, wind, bubbles, pencils, snacks, homework, toes, naps.
Some things heavy; some things light.
Some things dark; some things bright.





As the days march on, I keep snapping, searching, grasping for truth.
It feels hard to come by.
I read.
I pray.
I thank.
I praise.
I chase.
I hope.

I also fear.
I doubt.
I fall.
I worry.
I stumble.




I want everything to stop feeling so hard, the doubts to vanish, and the fears to fly away.
I want life to be full color, with butterflies flitting, birds singing, and the sweet scent of flowers filling the air.
I want to be living in a musical, and it feels at best like I'm living in an old, weighty documentary.



But as I start to look through my collection of photographs at the end of an hour,
my thankfulness list at the end of a day,
and my devotional journal at the end of a week,
my perspective begins to shift.



Yes, the skies are dark and heavy.
Yes, everything is covered with a layer of dust and grit.
Yes, life feels a bit lacking, a bit gray, a bit dry.......



But the light beams the brightest when everything around is the darkest!
The most beautiful pictures are those that have both light and dark.

I see the twinkle in an eye,
the flash of a smile,
the shimmer of a bubble.

I catch reflections, glimmers, and shadows.
But most of all, I'm reminded that a life with no contrast would be a dull life indeed.
So today I sit in the dark and give thanks for the light.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: Our Year in Pictures


What can I say?
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Enjoy a peek at our year that was "crowned with goodness!"