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This past weekend I went to Nicaragua with my friend Kay Bruner and a new friend, Annie Snyder. We went to lead a retreat for 90 mostly missionary women. It was a dream come true. All the way true.
I got to gather goodies, deliver bras and mayonnaise, plan ice breakers, sing beautiful songs, chat with new friends, and tell my story. And maybe y’all don’t remember my story, but the very nutshell version is that, after our missionary work in PNG went belly up 8 years ago, God told me that his purpose for me was to use that failure story to encourage OTHERS.
But, he gave me this dream a while ago. Actually, it was about 4 years ago at a blogging conference. God solidly in one lump delivered this concentrated . . . is VISION too strong a word? Nope, I think that is exactly what it was. And that vision was that I would be part of speaking and ministering to missionary women, telling my story, and saying that their broken stories matter too.
Because if I want to be like him, and I say that I do, then traveling to far places, experiencing difficulty, getting well acquainted with ministry life so that I can empathize with others’ weaknesses, well, that is kind of a no-brainer. That’s what Jesus did after all.
And I called Kay almost right afterward, telling her all about my big plan for a new thing called You Go, Girl!, partnering women here and on the field . . . how it would all happen immediately because my blogging-star was on the rise and surely God would bring it all to fruition soon. Wouldn’t he?
A couple weeks ago in my Faith in the Valley Bible study, we started by talking about Joseph, the dreamer, and how much time elapsed between his vision of his brothers bowing down to him and it actually happening. It was about 25 years. So that’s a long time, we thought. Staying faithful for that long is a big deal.
I tend to give up much more quickly. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, I’ve kind of wondered if I was hallucinating or misremembering what God told me about You Go Girl!, and telling my story, and serving missionary women.
After a few months, then years, then a waning enthusiasm, and a never-ending potty training battle, the deferred dream, as Langston Hughes says, “dried up like a raisin in the sun.” It got less fresh, less real. I set it aside in the pile with my unfinished master’s degree, my teaching certificate, and my passport. It was not exactly forgotten, but kind of . . . dusty. Under the bed. Out of sight.
In the meantime, I was writing a bit, editing, teaching Bible studies, speaking to women, praying and doing my mom-thing, with no idea what it all meant. In January, Kay, whose memoir I edited last year, asked if I wanted to accompany her down to a retreat in Nicaragua where she had been invited to speak.
And I waited a nano-second before saying, “YES YES YES YES YES YES YES,” like a crazy person in a Faulkner novel.
My role was a bit unclear, so I hosted Faith in the Valley to rally some prayer and support from ladies on this end to commission us. I wrote those Faith in the Valley studies, I collected seasoning packets, I prayed for each girl in Nicaragua, I hounded Kay to let me talk (which she did because I was like a squiggly puppy about it), and made myself and bit of an annoying eager-beaver. But y’all, excited doesn’t even begin to describe.
So we got down there and it was DRY SEASON. As in, HAS. NOT. RAINED. A. DROP. since December. Everything is dusty and hot and worn-down looking. Even, if I’m being honest, these 90 ladies. They really needed this retreat!
They seemed pretty tired. And we showered them with goodies, and love, and stories. Kay gave good counsel and I told my story and tried to crack jokes. I took down Duke’s mayonnaise because that’s what I craved in PNG, and Sara cried tears of joy to receive it.
Even though we were dealing with tough content, and weary souls, and dried up places, I just could NOT stop being happy because God was making my dream come true. We sang Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” on Saturday morning and I tried not to cry with joy. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things out of us.
But one thing that was on their schedule that I didn’t quite comprehend the importance of was “Gather on Beach to watch the Sunset.” Nonetheless, we traipsed out there and watched the sun sink below the horizon down behind the ocean. And I thought after the sun was gone, that would kind of be it. But . . .
And then . . . it just kept going.
Of course it does. Of course it’s because of the dust.
The Light shines through ALL THE DUST and makes it beautiful.
Because, you know, He makes beautiful things out of the dust. He makes beautiful things out of us.
Kay said it in her follow up post, but I am gonna say the same thing, I’m so grateful.
To her for inviting me.
To my Faith in the Valley girls for their stories, their faithfulness, and their generosity.
To my husband who held down the fort with my kids.
To the ladies in Nicaragua who welcomed us like precious sisters.
To my sister and parents who would lay down their own lives to see my dreams come true.
And to Jesus, who did actually just that.
And I’m so grateful that I had 20 hard, confusing months in Papua New Guinea 10 years ago. And I’m so grateful that God gave me a vision for it’s redemption 4 years ago. And I’m so grateful that I got to go to a dry and weary land where there is no water to glimpse what He’s doing with all the dusty places in my heart.
On, the plane ride down, I was finishing up writing Scripture on the last of the goodie bags, and I wrote this verse on one of the bags and I could barely squeeze it on, but I couldn’t cut it short because of all the great THENS, telling what God will do next.
Isaiah 58: 6-11 NIV
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
On Sunday morning, when we were cleaning up the room, that Scripture bag was the only one left. So that one was for me.
Thanks again to all who enabled this trip. I love you.
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