This month's Carla's Column asks us the question, "What is in your hand?" What do we have available to use for the benefit of others? How can we serve the needs of those around us? Putting aside training, education and credentials, we all have something in our hand to be a blessing. Consider the gifts you've been given as you read this encouraging post!
Mission trips are life changing. I’ve heard countless stories as people returned, observing how the experience impacted not only their heart but also the way they think and interpret life.
Then I had the opportunity to experience it for myself last summer, joining a team from our church traveling to El Salvador with my husband, our daughter and oldest son. I signed up for the medical missions team, my husband and son, on the construction team, and our daughter on the evangelism team.
The time passing since our trip held an unanticipated job change, and we knew my husband would not be able to be a part of the team this year. Therefore, we counted our family out when it came time to sign-up for the 2017 team.
I didn’t give it a thought at all to the possibility of us not participating as a family.
Until, I had a power session with a dear friend of mine. We work together in the NICU, on opposite shifts, and we give it our best to meet consistently to pray for one another’s needs and agree together for unity in our unit.
During our get-together, my friend challenged me with the possibility of letting our teenage daughter go without us. I told her I just couldn’t do that. She proceeded, “Heather, I remember the first time I went on a mission’s trip without my parents. They were standing there at the gate [because remember, back then family could escort you all the way to boarding the plane].” She continued, “They really embarrassed me! They just stood there hugging me and crying! I totally get it now,” she said, “being a mom myself, I can only imagine how they felt.”
I’m sure you can predict the word that came next.
“But,” she said, “going on a mission’s trip each year kept me grounded in the Lord. It was like the therapeutic dose I needed to keep me strong in my walk with Him through those teenage years.”
I heard what she was saying. And it did resonate in my heart. But I couldn’t imagine letting my teenage daughter go without us. I told my friend I would pray about it.
When I told my husband about my time with my friend that day, he replied, “I don’t even need to pray about it. She’s going.”
However, we really didn’t want to be that dogmatic about it. So we shared the story with our daughter and asked her to pray about it.
Time continued to pass and despite repetitive church announcements regarding the trip, she hadn’t made mention of any intention to go.
Until the Children of the World choir came to our church. Brandon and I were not in service that day, so the kids had gone to church with my mom. Brooklyn called immediately following service and said, “I’m going to go to El Salvador.”
You’d think we’d be elated but I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Surprisingly, I heard myself calmly respond, “Okay.”
Even more, she had a determined desire to pay for the trip on her own. I could only think two words— Committed. Invested.
After my daughter shared with us that she would be going, I pretty much immediately met my anxiety with this thought: I could go with her. However, as quickly as the thought came to my mind I instantly knew that would be disobedient to the Lord.
Disobedient?! To go on a mission’s trip? I mean how could doing something good be disobedient to the Lord?!
Well, it’s disobedience when my desire compromises my need to trust God. It takes away my reliance on God and places it on myself. It takes Him out of the driver’s seat and puts me in. That is disobedience.
I knew immediately that this opportunity for Brooklyn was not only an opportunity for her to walk in obedience to the Lord, being away from the security and comfort of her family, but also an opportunity for me to walk in obedience to the Lord to trust Him in letting her go without us.
So what do ya do with that?!
I prayed and prayed and prayed asking for the Lord to help me trust Him, to feel His peace about it all. One day I was at home, all the kids were at school and the house was completely quiet. I wasn’t even praying at the moment, but I walked into Brooklyn’s room to put some clothes away and I felt the Lord speak this to my heart—“Heather, Brooklyn has been farther away from you in your own home than she will be in El Salvador.”
I sat down and cried. It was so true. It’s been the crummiest last couple years of parenting! And God wants Brooklyn. He wants her completely and consistently.
That reality became even more evident the closer we got to the trip.
Brandon and I repeatedly explain to our children that sin is ugly and difficult, and if there is sin in our home it will eventually show itself, and when it does, it has to be dealt with.
God is faithful to reveal that which is hidden. But oh, how difficult it is. How ugly it can be.
Brooklyn has been in a cycle Paul knew well and wrote about in Romans 7:14-20. Despite the struggle, she was going on this mission’s trip. Without us.
We’ve hardly spoken the last three weeks. The pain of this battle is excruciating to my mama heart and I quite frequently desire to uncover a secret passage of escape. Wouldn’t that be nice?!
When we took her to the church yesterday morning at 3:45 a.m. I imagined myself giving her the boot with a good-riddance disposition. [May seem harsh but this blog is about real-living, and in this case, real-challenges in parenting teens].
But that’s not what happened.
As everyone began to load-up, she hugged her Dad, and then hugged me. She began to weep. I interpreted many things from her tears. And suddenly I realized that this was why I could not go. Where she needs to be in her walk with the Lord, she has to go without us. My friend Jayne said it best when she wrote, “God does not have grandchildren. He only has children.” Our children have to choose Him, choose to walk with Him, choose to honor Him on their own, without us.
Holding my daughter tight, the emotion of the moment and the realization hit me. Matthew 16:25 was rolling through my heart and in my head. It says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.”
What I heard was, “If you try to hang on to your daughter, you will lose her. But if you give her up for My sake, you will save her.”
I’m resting this week. Resting in letting go. Resting in my confident hope. Resting in trust. Resting in faith of what is now, is not what will be. Resting in the plans and purposes already set in motion. Resting in a testimony in the making. Resting in the beautiful life of an independent relationship with Jesus. Resting in knowing He alone is able, without us, God is able.
Will you please intercede for our daughter Brooklyn and the team she is with this week? May the Lord work in and through them as they serve the people of El Salvador. May each heart, from those serving to those being served, be transformed by the hand of God.
I pray this post spoke to you.
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We can’t grow with out you.
It’s incredible how when God puts something on your radar your eyes see it and your ears hear it as if it were for the first time. It’s like getting a new car and then noticing every other driver with the same one. Once your brain registers that make, model and color, you all of a sudden notice every other driver driving your car. Well back last December God put a mission trip on our radar and registered it in our brain.
May I use the word “incredible” again? It was incredible to me that never before had Brandon nor I felt called to go on a mission trip, but the Lord placed it on our hearts at exactly the same time. We have a heart for missions and we have a budget for missions, I mean I have an aunt and uncle who devoted their lives to the mission field, but I never imagined myself personally, physically going, to literally be the hands and feet of God’s love extended. Honestly, each time we had missionaries come speak at our church, or would listen to the reports of former mission teams from our church, I’d--for real--sit there and thank the Lord that He hadn’t called me to go. It just sounded so miserable.
However, when Brandon said, “We need to go on a missions trip,” I heard myself reply, “You’re so right.” And I really meant it! We’re big budgeters in our home, and although we had already had our meeting to formulate our 2016 budget, we trusted God would provide so Brandon called our Pastor the very next day and signed us up along with Brooklyn and Jaron.
When reflecting back on our first foreign mission trip, this is where the joy begins. The joy of this experience started with the decision to go. The greatest message I can share with you here is that the decision to go wasn’t out of obligation or guilt or inferiority.
I never felt this was a duty. And I never felt those who served in foreign missions were more stellar for Jesus. I still don’t.
What I do know is that our uniqueness is His design of working His creative plans in and through us.
See, the good news is we don’t have to go on a mission trip to be effective for Jesus. We just need to be sure we are where He wants us to be, when He wants us to be there doing what He wants us to do. It may look a little different for each of us. Or it may just look different in different seasons.
God will stretch us out to accomplish His plans and purposes in the places He desires. We don’t need to feel we must replicate another’s path, we simply trust Him to lead us in His unique design for us.
But cue up the Lion King’s “Be Prepared” song here. We must be prepared to extend ourselves beyond ourselves. This may mean the anticipation of discomfort.
In listening to the May 8th, 2016 “God’s Workmanship” podcast from Mark Batterson, he spoke about another podcast of an interview with Anders Ericsson regarding Deliberate Practice, a concept from Ericcson’s book Peak. In his message Batterson shares,
Deliberate Practice-- you have got to be practicing, we’ll put it in the terms of physical exercise, at 70% maximal strength. In other words, when you do physical activity your body has to be stressed to the point beyond 70% where homeostasis cannot be maintained. In other words, your body has to adjust to what’s happening. Where your metabolism has to change because of the way that you are pushing your body. The body has to grow new capillaries to get more oxygen to your muscles. And then here’s the crazy thing, once you hit your goals, a certain point of physical fitness, the work out that got you there won’t get you to the next level. So now you’ve got to do it all over again! It’s called a stretch goal. And what’s true physically is true spiritually.
I’m sure this message could have challenged me to spend a few more minutes on the tread mill or at least increase the incline of my run, but as this concept fell on my ears I knew it was to motivate my mindset for missions. For months, the Lord poured material into my heart in preparation for this trip. The trip was on my radar.
See, I’m the girl who goes on trips and enjoys a nice soft bed, a temperature controlled environment, gourmet meals, wardrobe options, several pairs of shoes, a snazzy bathroom and enough drawers and closet space to move in for the week. Sounds pretty rotten doesn’t it? But work with me here.
Although I enjoy the cushy things I’m so grateful the Lord has allowed me to experience, I can tell you that when He called me to go without them, there was just as much enjoyment. Isn’t that so incredibly awesome?!?!
How could that be? Because, I wasn’t there for any other reason than the simple fact that God called me to be there. And while I anticipate more mission trips in my future, I can say…
- I’ll never go expecting to have the same experience I just had. That would be disappointing. Nothing could be just like it was. And I wouldn’t want it to be. That would limit God.
- I’ll never make my decision to go based on who else is attending. We committed to this trip before we ever knew who may go, but God knew. He knew that Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron and I needed a special time connecting with our church family and He packaged up a special bond with some people we didn’t even know before we left. I’d have never wanted to miss out on that sweet gift.
- I’ll never feel like I dodged a bullet again when hearing the stories of those in the mission field. I’m still amazed at how much we received. It was so unexpected and incredibly humbling. As surprised as I was to have had such spiritual nourishment there, the Lord reminded me of those words found in Luke 6:38, “Give, and you will receive….” Oh how we received.
It’s too much for one blog post. But a series would suffice. Would you please join me again as I share some of our moments from El Salvador?
My prayer in preparing and my prayer there was, “Lord, speak in us and through us.”
He did just that. Not just for El Salvador but for home.
As we leave today, let's continue to ask, "Lord, how do you want to stretch me?"
I pray your heart is encouraged, inspired, motivated, challenged and blessed as those treasures are shared in the posts to follow.
“One mission trip is worth fifty-two sermons.” Mark Batterson
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