Thursday, April 19, 2012

Keep on Singing

 Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending a Leadership Network Missional Renaissance workshop with several amazing individuals from our Compassion Ministry at church. The premise of the workshop was to gather like-minded church and community leaders that had a passion and heart for meeting the needs of the vulnerable and collaborate on ways we can wrap around the hopeless and restore hope. Our church's vision is to go beyond the church walls and into the community to live out the gospel and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who may otherwise never step foot in our building. I could go on and on about all the goodness I soaked in over the two days we were there, but for now, I just wanted to share a video that they showed us there that I thought was so stinking powerful! This may just be one of the coolest things I've ever seen- I think you'll agree! Check it out!

After we watched this video, the leaders asked the entire group what our thoughts were, and as people shared, very true points were touched on. One person shared how this video really revealed the importance of community and how everyone longs to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Another shared that clearly technology is powerful and can touch lives all around the world and bring people together (I can testify to that just since blogging!). Another shared how it was so cool that before the conductor started this huge project, he didn't know how it was all going to come together, but he stepped out in faith anyway and trusted it would all fall into place at just the right time, and it did! But it was what the last person shared that stuck with me most- here's my spin on what was said...

It's like God is the conductor over this entire world, orchestrating an absolutely beautiful song with each of our individual lives. He's inviting us to sing in His choir and be a part of the most incredible music piece to ever be written. What a privilege it is to be asked to join in!

So that has me thinking... Here I am, with Joshua and Jude, and we're singing this little song over here in North Texas, sometimes we're off pitch, and sometimes we don't sing as loud as we should, and other times we're singing the wrong part all together! And I can't help but think that there's another song in Ethiopia being sung right now, and that Isa and his birth mom are singing their hearts out this very moment- and they may not feel like it's even loud enough to be heard... but it is! God hears them! God hears us! And the best part is, He's orchestrating our voices together just perfectly so that it makes a beautiful song! And the reality is, this music piece is far bigger than just our voices... it includes so many of YOURS as well! Thank you for joining in singing with us!

So today, and every day, I'm choosing to trust that a beautiful song is being written, even when my part doesn't always sound too hot, and I just need to keep on singing! What an honor it is to be a part of something far bigger than myself! Make my song beautiful Lord and thank you for orchestrating it all so well!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Begging for HIS PLAN

As many of you know, the burden to GO (literally move our family) to Africa has been heavy on our hearts for over a year now. Both Joshua and I expected that our trips (in July for Joshua and February for me) to Uganda were just another piece to the puzzle of God equipping and preparing us for what is to come, whatever that may be. I think Joshua was anxiously waiting for me to get back from my trip to see if my experience there was similar to his. He came home pretty stinkin' sure that he could see our family in Africa. He most definitely didn't have all the answers to how and when we would get there- but no doubt Africa captured his heart and the desire to GO was only strengthened.  I've always said to Joshua that he leads our family and if he came home tomorrow and told me, "Hil... we're moving to Africa this week, I know it's where the Lord wants us!"....  that I'd go, I wholeheartedly trust him! He seeks the Lord's guidance for our family and I couldn't have more confidence in his willingness to say YES to whatever God asks of him! And here's the deal... if my man is seeking God's story for our family, than I'm 100% behind him! For this, I'm beyond grateful, what a blessing it is to have a husband that is the spiritual leader of our family! Now that being said, while I'm pretty sure the hubs appreciates my vote of confidence in his ability to hear the Lord so clearly, he also let me in on the fact that it would make him feel a tad a heck of a lot better if I experienced Africa for myself just to confirm that I too felt the Lord tugging our family in that direction after having been there. Fair enough! I'm also grateful for a hubby who desires to make sure I'll be a happy mama and not get to Africa one day and say, "What?! Why in the world did you bring our family here?! I hate it!"- I think that would truly be his worst nightmare!

Keeping all that in mind, inevitably my experience in Uganda was captured through a filter of "Can I see our family living here?" I most definitely took advantage of every opportunity to talk with any "non-Ugandan's" (is that a word?! I would say American's but I spoke with a gal from Holland too, so I can't lump her into the American category?!) who already live there to pick their brain for what Africa life is like from their perspective! Thank you Kirby (with Sixty Feet), Danielle and Renee (with Serving His Children), and Mariska (Yep, you guessed it, the gal from Holland with Food Step) for your gracious spirits and precious time you were willing to give me in answering my plethora of questions! Our conversations meant more to me than you probably will ever know! What amazed me most as I spoke with each of these ladies, was how God so clearly was woven into how they ended up in Uganda. Each of them with a very different story of how they got there and each of them with a very different story of how God is using them there! 

But here is where I have to be honest and say as I spoke with Kirby, Danielle, Renee, and Mariksa,
I thought to myself, "There is NO WAY I could do what they do! I would emotionally break down and be a crappy mom and wife if I did what they do on a daily basis! I'm not as strong as them, or smart as them, or brave as them, or as faithful as them! How in the world are you going to get my family to Africa God?!?!?"

It's funny how in hindsight it can seem so clear that God was trying to teach me an obvious lesson, yet I totally missed it! I remember thinking to myself that each of their stories were so uniquely different from each other, BUT how I assumed for some reason that my story was going to look like one of theirs! And I was overwhelmed at the thought of trying to put myself into their shoes, because their shoes seemed to fit them perfectly, but be way too big for me to fill! I missed the point... God was showing me how all their stories were so different from each other so that I would realize my story would be different too! He would write it, I didn't have to figure it out!

It wasn't until I got home from my trip and I was sharing this thought with my sweet (and very wise) friend Courtney, and she gently reminded me, that of course I couldn't do what they do! I'm NOT them! God wired them specifically for their role! He didn't wire me for their purposes... God's story for each of our lives looks totally different! As she shared that simple truth with me, it was as if a weight was lifted from my chest, and God's lesson He had tried to reveal earlier to "slow to catch on Hilary" was all the sudden so clear!  God's plan for my life is custom made to suit my personality and the way He created me so that He can shine through me best. His plan enables me to be the wife and mother He longs for me to be! God's story is tailor made for our family so that Joshua and Jude (and Isa too!) will be used by God for far greater things than I can imagine!  Does that mean life is always going to be easy?! Absolutely not! Does that mean that I won't ever have to step outside my comfort zone?! I wish, but NO! BUT, what it does mean is that I don't have to figure it all out....  all I have to do is be available! What it does mean is that I can trust God's agenda and plan, and I don't have to come up with it on my own. God will pave the way to our own unique story of how He gets our family to Africa!  

Can I just tell you what a relief it is to hand this one over to God?! If I learned one thing for sure while in Uganda, it's that life is hard there. I am confident that when we move to Africa, however God gets us there, we will face heartache, we will face poverty, we will face injustice, we will face brokenness... and we'll only be able to face all of this by God's strength, clinging to the hope found in His goodness and trusting that we are in HIS will! The reality is, it's gonna be hard. So... that leaves me on my knees begging for HIS PLAN, HIS AGENDA, HIS STORY, HIS WAY, HIS DESIRES... because I don't want to live my life outside of HIS PURPOSES! 

Like Joshua, I too came home from Uganda certain that God was in fact preparing our family for Africa. I have no idea when or how we'll get there- but I'm learning that's okay! It leaves the door open for God to reveal His path and not let mine get in the way! I have more peace about that now than ever before.

Rest assured, we are seeking God's wisdom and discernment for our family and we're trusting that He will be clear! We will be faithful to GO and FOLLOW when He opens the door!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding....

Proverbs 3:5 " Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding...."

I don't know about you, but sometimes my emotions can be all over the place, crazy! Like my crazy face child here! (That's seriously the only tie in I have to the photo above, I look at it and I think "cRaZY"... and when I think of trusting my emotions at times, I think "cRaZY"!)

There was a particular day (the conference portion) while we were in Uganda that my emotions just about got the best of me! They may have entirely gotten the best of me, but for the sake of sounding like I can keep it together- we'll go with " just about".  It was one of those days where if it COULD go wrong, it WOULD go wrong. There were unforeseen challenges with the language barrier, the cultural gap, and the teaching environment that all seemed to pile on top of each other and leave me feeling as if I could curl up on the ground in the fetal position and just have a good ole' ugly cry. All that I had planned and prepared for (not to mention, poured my heart into), for the lesson I was teaching, seemed to have been a complete and total flop! We returned to the Guest House that night and I was completely consumed with my emotions of defeat. 

Right about now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Wow, what a downer of a story Hil, thanks for sharing!"... but hang tight, here's where it gets good, here's where God gets to work.... 

That night at our team debrief I was barely able to keep it together. Knowing my turn to share was nearing, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as we went around the dinner table one by one rehashing the day. It was no secret that all of us ladies on the team were exhausted, discouraged, and done for. The men on the other hand had had a really encouraging day and felt like they had made some serious progress with the pastors they were teaching, and for them, the day was a huge success. Can I just say, to a personality type like mine, where normally I'm the "cheery one", it sucks to be the Debby Downer of the day! But here's where the character of our team shines. Here were our men, who were on a high from the day (rightfully so) and they quickly realized and were sensitive to the fact that the day for us ladies was anything but a high... and so they listened. I know, simple, right?! They genuinely empathized with us- and they selflessly listened. The beauty of the body of Christ right there. So to the gents on the trip, Jason, Paul, Jeff, Brett, and Shawn... THANK YOU for wrapping around us with a listening ear,  gentle words, and prayers of encouragement. It meant more than you know and you represented Christ's love so well!

I walked away from our time of debrief grateful for God putting together such an amazing team- yet I still longed to just talk to my husband! I missed him so much on this trip and it was truly hard to experience such emotional highs and lows without him by my side! So you can imagine my frustration when I couldn't get Skype up and running that night to chat with him and was only able to type a couple sentences on facebook to let him know it was a crap day and I desperately needed his prayers. I chalked it up as one more frustrating thing to add to the day and decided to call it quits and go to bed before it got any worse. Surprisingly, I fell asleep crazy fast that night, I'm sure being wore out on all levels played a factor into my unconsciousness! 

As I woke up the following morning the first thing I heard were the birds chirping outside my window. It was still dark out, yet the birds knew it was a new day and they were busy singing their praises! Like the birds, I was flooded with an unusual peace that seemed to shine an entirely new perspective on the previous day's situation. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." kept coming to mind, over and over again. Actually, that verse kept coming to mind, and so did the the scene from one of Jude's favorite movies, Chicken Little, where the young rooster confidently puffs out his chest and says, "It's brand new day!" (clearly I'm the mother of a 4 year old!). A shift from discouragement to hope had happened in the middle of the night that I couldn't explain. God had clearly been at work answering prayers that I didn't even know where being lifted up on my behalf! I genuinely felt the Lord's voice of truth reassuring me to trust not in my emotions but in His ability to work despite what I had to offer.

As our bus pulled up where we were hosting the conference, I again heard His whisper in my heart, "Don't trust your insecurities right now- I'm at work!"... and so I stepped off the bus and bravely made my way towards the group of pastor's wives that I felt I had totally missed the mark with the day before in my teaching (mostly because of cultural relevance & language barriers). And in classic African style, we were all immediately greeted with quite possibly the warmest and most friendly smiles you've ever seen, which instantly brought an easiness to my soul! And then, as if that wasn't enough, I was strangely approached by nearly every one of the women as they came up to me and thanked me for my teaching the day before! They were intentional in telling me that great conversations were sparked from what I had taught on and they were so grateful! Folks, I'm tellin' ya, it was SO odd, and their appreciation most certainly didn't measure up in the slightest with my far from stellar teaching I had offered!!! It was at this point it was blatantly clear to me that the Holy Spirit's ability to communicate was far greater than I could comprehend! God had clearly been at work filling in where I fell short. He took the culture gap and somehow brought relevance to it, He took the debilitating communication barriers and spoke through them, He answered prayers of those who cried out on my behalf when I was too defeated to do so! And from that day forward, it was smooth sailing with the conference, and the issues that seemed to be gigantic hurdles, were wiped away!

You see, here's the part that is unbelievably cool to me... While I was surprised by my new found hope and peace when I woke up that morning, and while I stood in awe and was dumbfounded as the women enthusiastically greeted and thanked me for my flop of a teaching, an while I was just so grateful for the obvious positive turn of events... what I didn't know is that God was answering very specific prayers from others! 

Remember my frustration from the night before, where I was only able to type a few sentences to Joshua begging him to pray?! Well, being the amazing husband he is, he prayed on my behalf and asked others to do the same & sent a simple email out to friends and family.
This is what it said....

"Update from Hilary:
The women's portion of the conference is struggling a little. The location is difficult among many other barriers with language, children and knowledge. Hilary is discouraged and the group could really use some prayer as they finish their last two days. Pray what has been taught will be used by the Lord and pray for what will be taught will be understood and applied. Thanks for all of you and your support for Hilary."
For those of you that responded and prayed for our team I can't even tell you how grateful I am, because I KNOW that God heard you and He answered! I know for a fact that God heard my dad's prayer... because every line of it was specifically answered! I don't know if God tuned in a little extra because it was a dad calling out on his daughter's behalf... but take note parents, God hears our prayers for our children! Here's my dad's prayer and response to Joshua's email...
"Dear Lord:
Hilary needs Your help. Please use her incredible winsomeness and people skills to win over the women in her Uganda sphere of influence. May they see Your work in her and be swayed toward your grace. Please lift barriers and remove hindrances to Your truth being understood, felt and acted on. Please give Hilary a scripture to hang on to and a kind act or remembrance that energizes her spirit through the balance of this trip. May this renewal be contagious to the other women to such a point that it is obvious, You are at work and they praise You for it. Please return her home safe and satisfied that she has done her best and obeyed your direction.  Amen  ~Blane"

Brings me to tears every time I read it. I can so clearly see God answered each and every specific line of my dad's requests!

The thing is, I think I could have missed it. I might not have seen that God used my flop for His good, had I only trusted my emotions and my own understanding! Proverbs 3:5 " Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding...." You can't always trust your feelings- they're not always reality, and honestly, I think Satan uses them at times to put his spin on situations! God's word is solid and trustworthy, even when our emotions are cRaZY!

I would have never thought I'd say I was grateful for that emotionally discouraging day while in Uganda-but God revealed more of Himself to me that day. He showed me the importance in the Body of Christ. He showed me that He answers prayers. He showed me that He is far bigger than my emotions and He alone is the solid truth to cling to! For a girl who's dad often told her growing up, "You can't let your feelings lead the way Hilary".... clearly there was a lesson to be learned!
Cling to Him and His truth NOT your emotional circumstances!