Thoughts on Turning 50
He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. I Thess. 5:24 ESVFor most of the past 10 years, we lived off of financial support from family and friends. The amount we needed to raise at times felt daunting and impossible. God was faithful to bring us partners to make our work possible. Some had never even supported work like ours before. Every need was met. When the kids needed clothes, someone would give us hand me downs. When we needed vaccines, a church stepped in and covered the bill. When on home leave, churches and friends provided lodging.
It wasn't only financial. I don't know how many times, I had people tell me that they prayed for us as we lived in our war torn country. God not only heard those prayers but answered them. He gave us strength and resilience as we dealt with security threats, flight permission issues, and friends dying. He gave us a great team and a love for the people we served. He gave us grace in our low times when we wanted to give up. Most of all, he gave us friends to walk with as we labored.
His faithfulness extended to providing my children with a good school and friends. He gave them a team and teachers who loved and mentored them. He watered the planted seeds allowing their roots to go deep and their love for him to grow high.
His faithfulness reached down in our marriage. I won't lie to you. There were years that were hard, but God just kept pushing us toward him and each other. Now in our 26th year of marriage, my favorite part of my day is spending time with my husband and best friend.
We saw God's faithfulness in our friends' stories as some started new ministries and others adopted older children.
But most of all, we saw his faithfulness in his presence in the good times and bad. He was there when we heard gunshots in the distance. He was there as tears ran down my face as I prepared to leave Central Asia. He was there when I dropped my son off at boarding school. He was always there.
Now his faithfulness continues these past two years with a new team in a new place in a ministry that fits us well.
I love the metaphor in the OT of God being the potter and us being the clay. The picture of a potter making something beautiful out of a lump of clay with the clay being moldable in the hands of its maker. I wish I could say I was the clay, but actually I was more like a piece of marble with God being the sculptor. Chip by chip these past years, God has been working on me to make me more like Him. In fact, I am still a work in progress which is why I like this verse in Philippians where Paul writes,
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to competition at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6)Language learning took off the first few chips. I would work and work to still have the locals not understand me unless I was asking how much something cost. God taught me graciousness and humor in those moments and most of all not to give up. My identity couldn't be in how well I spoke the language or I would have been a mess. I learned that my identity had to be in Christ. God had called me to this place, and he knew ahead of time how great or not so great I would be at the language.
Other chips came off as the pressures of living in a different culture brought out the not so flattering parts of me. When I wanted to blame my husband for something, God reminded me of my need to respect him and how my attitude was all about me. Living so closely with other people I found the need to apologize more than once for hastily said words and started to work on better conflict resolution skills. Electricity issues and crazy neighbors worked on my flexibility. Challenging students tested my calling to teach even when it was hard. But I think the biggest chip came as God taught me to trust even when it didn't make sense. Did I trust him with my life and that of my family? Did I trust him with my future? Was He really good?
So now as I enter this next decade, I hope to take these lessons with me. I want to be clay this time and not marble. I want to be fearless as I continue on knowing that God still has more work to do in me and through me. (More on this in a future post.)