Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Next Right Step


This time last year, I was preparing for Ethiopia. I love Christmas, but I was happy to see it come and go.  On December 26, 2009, I boarded a place for Washington, D.C. and eventually one to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I was horribly sick.  I had woken up that morning with a stomach virus.  All of my family members had been sick prior to Christmas, and my mother promised me that I would only be sick about 10-12 hours.  So I got on the plane, praying that by the time I arrived in Ethiopia, I would be on the road to recovery.  The next 24 hours were shaky.  I threw up on the airplane.  God bless the poor girl who sat beside me.  The flight attendant was furious with me for traveling while sick.  I had to do it, though.  Ethiopia was expecting me.

I have always love missions and missionaries.  My parents were missionaries to New Zealand, and I got to see how it all worked firsthand.  As a pastor's kid in high school, I loved seeing the presentations as the missionaries came to our church.  When I started as a freshman at Baptist Bible College, I remember listening to a speaker in my Intro to Missions class, and I felt like boarding a plane and joining this man in his work.  Just seeing someone else's genuine burden for a specific people group has always spoken to me.  It still does, really.  I have seen seasoned missionaries cry through their video presentations that they have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of times.  Those are the ones that get me.   And so, though my adult life has gone through a series of unexpected turns and changes, one thing has remained constant.  I have always wanted to go.  Even when I convinced myself that it was okay to stay, that I would marry and have a family and stay right here in the United States forever and ever, in the back of my mind, it was always there.

Ethiopia was a test of that desire.  I thought it would spark a new burden.  After all, the need is great, and I was sure that seeing it firsthand would give me the "This is it... this is where I am supposed to be" feeling.  And it didn't.  I spent almost two weeks in Ethiopia.  I saw so much poverty, so many beautiful people, and so much work to be done.  And I expected to feel the desire to stay.  But after two weeks of a beautiful, wonderful, and sometimes painful trip through the country, I didn't feel it.  This wasn't it.

The months following my trip to Ethiopia were confusing ones.  I expected to have more clarity about life and the world and my place in it, and I had so, so much less.  I had made wonderful friends on the trip, and then they were taken away from me and returned to their respective homes.  The sickness that I took with me to Ethiopia never quite left me, and I couldn't eat without feeling sick for about a month.  I was kind of a mess.  And I felt like I had been deprived of the one thing that I had really wanted... direction.

But when we don't have clarity about going, we stay.  When God doesn't say to move, we stand still.  And I hate standing still.  I hate not knowing.  I like planning.  I like knowing what comes next.  I like it when everything fits into my day planner and everything makes sense.  But God doesn't work like this.  Life is not a road map that we follow step by step to reach a destination.  Life is about doing the next right thing. Taking the next right step, even if we don't have the slightest idea where that next step will take us.

About a month ago, I met a woman at a craft show that was selling beads.  I recognized them as the same kind of paper beads I had purchased in Ethiopia.  I have seen them in coffee shops and little boutiques, and they are a popular way for African women to make money.  The woman selling the beads was part of an organization called Village of Hope Uganda.  Their goal is to provide homes and community for refugee children in Uganda.  I stood and listened to the woman tell about abducted children, child mothers, and children forced to kill family members.  She has seen these things firsthand and has decided to do something about it.  I also discovered that she is the founder of Village of Hope Uganda.  She has overseen the building of homes, a school, a church, and a clinic.  And so I became hopeful once again.  I wanted to do something to help.  I cried when I walked away from the booth.  I emailed the founder the same day, and my main question was "What can I do to help?".  We still to have to work out the details, but I am currently planning on traveling to Uganda with her at some point in 2011, if God allows.

Who knows what this means?  Well, God does, I guess.  But I am trying to let go of figuring it all out.  I still want to be married and have kids and do missions work and teach and play music.  There are lots of details, lots of possibilities, lots of tiny little things that would have to fall into place just right for me to be able to have it all.  And I serve a God that specializes in orchestrating all of those tiny little things.   Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite verses, but I have to say that there isn't really a version that completely captures what it means.  I know the thoughts I think toward you.  I know that plans I have for you.  The word that is translated "think" or "have" actually means to weave or to braid or to fabricate.  To weave.  I almost shouted the day that I did a word study and discovered what it really meant, and I have to say that I am not much of a shouter.  But it confirmed what I already knew.  And it continues to remind me and encourage me when I have no idea what's going on in my life... like right now.  All of these little details of my life, every experience, every relationship, every encounter... those are all being woven together to create God's plan.  I know some people don't believe that.  They don't believe that God is so involved.  But I believe He is because He says He is.  And so I will take the next right step when the time comes.

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