Monday, April 14, 2014

Learning to See my Desires Through His Eyes

Ever since high school, I’ve had this desire to be a missionary. Somewhere along the line, I went on a short-term cross-cultural mission trip and got “hooked on missions” and have been ruined ever since. I’ve done everything I could think of to “become” a missionary. I went to a Christian college and took all the missions classes offered while getting a degree in something practical (nursing) so I would have marketable skills if God called me to a creative-access country. I went on multiple short-term trips to see if there was a specific place I felt like God was leading me. I signed up for an eleven-month trip to quite a few places because I thought surely God wouldn’t let me go all the way around the world and not bring me back to one of them. I came home from that trip unsure of my next steps, so I settled down, got a real job (which was actually a really good thing - it’s hard to do a lot in the nursing/medical world when you have no experience. and there’s something about obedience), and tried to adjust to “normal American life.”

The problem was, I wasn’t cut out for normal American life.

I wasn’t satisfied with the place God had put me. I had this itch that wasn’t getting scratched and this void that wasn’t being filled.

After a season of obedience to the mundane, I decided it was time. I figured God hadn’t given me this desire for nothing - He had to have something in store for me. So, I quit my job, packed all my stuff back into my car, moved it back across the country to my parents’ house, and headed back overseas for what I thought was “it” - the time I was finally going to be a missionary.

Except it wasn’t quite that smooth or planned out long-term. I signed up for a short-term assignment with an organization as a “test the waters” gig, so I had no long-term commitment. The country I headed to was in political turmoil (my organization actually called me a few days before I was scheduled to leave, unsure if I should even go because of everything that was going on). My three-month commitment turned into only 5 weeks because of aforementioned turmoil, and then faster than I even knew, I was back in the US. I felt like I failed.

So I did what any sane person who wants to be a missionary would do - I found a different country with different people and a different organization and a completely different strategy and planned to move there instead. I signed up for a two-year commitment with a team of 4 other women, and moved to said country less than a year later with three of those women (through various circumstances, one had dropped out of training and preparing before we left). I was living the life I thought I always wanted, the life I felt like God had picked out for me over 10 years before. Guess what, though - it didn’t work. I ended up back in the US after only 6 months. I felt like I failed. Again. I felt like I missed what God was saying to me, like I missed the calling He placed on my life.

I felt like this desire I felt God had given me to “be a missionary” was never going to be met.

But maybe, just maybe, I missed something long before that. Maybe I missed what it meant when He called me to be a “missionary” in the first place. See, I thought He gave me that desire so I could magically transform into this saintly person who lived in some really cool place overseas and help fix people’s problems, and that hadn’t happened.

But maybe what God was calling me to wasn’t so far off from what He’d brought me through; I just needed a perspective shift. Maybe it wasn’t that I heard Him wrong, but that I got my definitions messed up a little.

See, He’s met so many of the desires He’s given me, even if they weren’t quite how I envisioned them.

He met my desire to live and serve overseas (and has provided me with the opportunity to call multiple places home for a month or more).

He met my desire to travel as well as experience new cultures (and try my hand at learning new languages).

He met my desire to mold together my gifts and abilities with serving Him (nursing and loving people well go hand-in-hand in my book).

He met my desire to have a family I can call my own (even if they are of all ages and nationalities and scattered across the whole entire world).

He met my desire to grow in my relationship with Him and my unspoken desire to trust Him more (and honestly, that’s been one of the hardest, because I didn’t think I needed as much growth as He’s provided).

He met my desire to continue to learn about the world and the people that He has placed on my heart by allowing me to enroll in classes and read textbooks while I’m here in the USA (and hopefully someday He’ll allow me the opportunity to take what I’ve learned practically and put it to use experientially, meeting people where they are).

See, it’s not about Him not fulfilling the desires He gave me.

It’s about me realizing that I need to look at my desires through His eyes instead of my own. They’re desires that He has given me, so obviously He has the best perspective on how they’re going to be fulfilled.

And yeah, I don’t have it all figured out yet. I’m still sitting on my nice couch in my nice house in my nice suburb and wondering what in the world I’m doing; and maybe someday I’ll get to understand the process He’s taking me through, but for now, I get to keep working through all those “unmet” desires and see how He’s working.

Bio & Disclaimer:
Becky is a single 20-something who’s not sure if she’ll ever get married or have her own kids (but that’s another “unmet desire” for another day, and God’s working on her heart with that too). She currently works as a school nurse for an inner-city district (which is not all “putting bandaids on boo-boos” - sometimes she has to save lives!), she loves to run and got hooked on distance running about a year ago with her first 25K race (she’s done a full- and half-marathon since and is running another 25K in a couple weeks), and she likes to travel to anywhere on a plane, train, bus, or hiking trail can get her. Oh, and she loves Jesus with all her heart and has been on a crazy journey of trust with Him for as long as she can remember.

Also, she doesn’t really like the “m-word” and tries not to use it when talking about herself. See, she’s still pretty sure she’s going to end up in one of those creative-access places where that word isn’t allowed, and that just wouldn’t go over well. So please don’t link this to her blog or facebook page. Just be careful with how you share it, okay?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Longing Fulfilled

     Today I had a conversation with a two and a five year old about half birthdays. It was in counting out theirs that I realized I was already a month past mine. I am a single woman, with no children (save for the two and five year olds of whom I am nanny to Monday through Friday), and in just five short months I will be celebrating my actual birthday. 30.
     If you had asked me when I was a teenager or even into my early twenties if I thought I’d still be single at 30, I would have said I hoped not! Like most young ladies, I constructed this imaginary timeline in my mind appointing the proper ages at which I should be married by and when I ought to begin to have children. The funny thing about life, though, is that things don’t always, or rarely ever, work out the way you imagined them to! “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.”
     No, I would not have imagined I would still be unmarried, but I also would never have imagined finding myself thanking God that I am still unmarried. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply desire to have a husband and to be a wife. I have even made many poor and sinful choices in effort to attain it because I wanted it so badly. But sometimes when I am in quiet thought, my mind wanders back to these heartbreaking and painful experiences, and I am overwhelmed at the faithfulness of my Lord and Savior. His patience as my thirsty heart wandered from one mirage to the next and the way He has stayed with me through it all is baffling to my human heart and mind. It’s bewildering why He would wait for my rebellious, harlot heart to return to His, taking me, dirt-stained, thorn-torn with tangled hair from running in the wilderness, back into His arms. Yet He has. Every time. It is here in the disparity between my desperation and His perfect love that I can find a “thank You.”
     I believe God put this longing for a husband in my heart, and this longing takes me to a deeper place than I could ever access on my own. From this soul-deep place there bellows a cry which can only be heard by One. It is an echoing heavy sigh which is only communicated between my God and me. So when I come before Him, He puts His soothing hand right over this place- the place where longing brings me to my knees. This unmet desire draws me closer to Himself. For this I thank Him. There is nothing on this earth to compare to His intimacy. He has used this unfulfilled dream as an open door for a richer relationship with Himself that is so unbelievably satisfying my words can’t describe it. This place is His presence. In His presence I more clearly see that this deep longing in my heart is actually a desire for the very One who gave me this heart. His presence satisfies. His presence makes me whole. In His presence there is fullness of joy. In light of such a Lover, trust and faith grows in the waiting. In the waiting there springs forth beauty and peace in surrender- my will, my desires, my hopes.. all of me. The surrender is worship. And worship is what we’re made for. “Thank You!” I’m thankful for a God who loves me so perfectly that He planned all this time and space for just me and Him. In this time and space He is giving me Himself. I find deeper recognition of who He is in these moments, and in knowing Him more, I know who I am in Him.
     Though my naturally wild heart is prone to wander, time after time He’s there. He stays, not rebuking me, but wooing me. Gently, lovingly, beautifully He wins my heart over and over. He knows my desires cannot be fully satisfied by anyone other than Himself. He knows He is the answer to the deepest desire in the wild heart of His girl. His girl. His. And now after “I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,” I know He is mine. I am His and He is mine. This desire is beyond me.. As Jesus walks me into eternity with Him, so He wraps this desire up in the softest blanket of forever. There it is kept. Here I am kept. So when this heart of mine faints at the shadows of what it desires before arriving at the real thing, when in the desert I am tempted to give in to my craving, I will drink of the goodness of heavenly springs, and the burning thirst is cooled and quenched once again by His living waters.

“You do not want to leave, too, do you?”
Lord, to whom shall I go? Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire more than You. First Love, onward into glory. To the very end.

Author- Emmilou Harlan 

I am a free-lance photographer, graduated from Northern Illinois University, whose favorite subject is the rural Midwest in which I grew up. Here is where I have come to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and here is where He has been growing and teaching me. www.emmilouharlan.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When God’s Call Turns into—Closed Doors?

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” –Psalm 37:4

It is so hard to wait while we’re in the midst of waiting. But how sweet the prize at the end that we soon forget our suffering!

My husband and I are about to take the next step in our careers. We are receiving such confirmation from the Holy Spirit and our community of friends and family that this next step is the one to take. We are preparing to serve in another country on an international church planting team.

We never saw this coming. When we answered God’s call to attend seminary and prepare for full-time ministry, we figured we’d end up as local church pastors in small town America. Okay, maybe large town America! I remember reading book after book about church planting in seminary, thinking – wow, what an awesome ministry for those who are called to it. I could never do that…

Then we graduated. We hit the ground running, interviewing for all kinds of ministry positions from the local church to college ministry to chaplaincy. With each attempt, another door would close and we’d become even more discouraged. It wasn’t long before we were jaded by the job search process. Was it the economy? Was it us? Scariest of all, were we just not called to this after all?

Our tears were our prayers as we processed each disappointment. We felt that we were somehow failing at our call. But God reminded us to take delight in HIM first, not in our skill set, not in our network, and not in our calling as pastors.

We stopped trying to control the outcome and make something come together. We realized we had grown up in an environment that says if we take all the right steps, succeed at school, make good choices, our “dream job” was attainable. We’ve come to see that as an empty promise of our secular, ego-driven culture. And we watched in awe as God gave us new dreams altogether.

Through this process, we are being refined as gold is refined. We are being sanctified so we can be used for his purposes. While 3 years of waiting for a job seems like an eternity to us, it is nothing to the God of eternity. He is far more concerned with quality than quantity. He purifies our desires and shapes us in the fire. Without the intense heat of the fire, gold is not shapeable. Neither are we.

In our time of waiting, we are learning how to be with Him; to be together as husband and wife in Him. We are learning to find good nourishment in Him so we can offer the well of living water to others. As we wait for the unmet desires of our hearts, we trust in the Lord who placed those desires in our hearts to begin with.

When this wait is finally over, we will rejoice! But then the old desires will undoubtedly be replaced with new, more complicated struggles. God has proven, time and time again, that he can be trusted to answer every prayer in time and meet each unmet desire with His tender love.


Author- Stephanie Voland 

Stephanie lives with her husband, Phillip, and two beautiful daughters, Gabrielle (5) and Charlotte (1). She has her Masters of Divinity from Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. She is discerning a call to short-term missions in Europe with the Evangelical Covenant Church. She loves to preach, write, spend time with family and friends, and laughs a LOT. She thanks her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the precious gift of life in Him and the ability to share that gift with others.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Idol of an Unmet Desire, the Pain of Letting Go, and the Hope of Christ

Something in the depth of my soul would often twist and turn with a deep and lingering pain.  Sometimes it was so intense it drove me to tears. 

In those moments I would cry out, “Lord, I trust you.” 

I felt it in my bones.  I wasn’t physically ill and no one had purposefully hurt me, but my pain had come about from an unmet desire in my life. 

“Lord Jesus, be my delight, I trust you.  You are good.  You are all I need.”

Oh, how I longed for a husband.  Yet, I knew that God was the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  There were times when I was a fool and made the desire for a husband greater than my desire for Jesus Christ.  This caused me to enter into relationships with men who weren’t healthy and quite honestly, I wasn’t healthy either, because I was looking to a person to satisfy a deep longing within my soul instead of allowing an unwavering Savior to define who I was. 

“God, you must not really love me if you don’t have a husband for me.”.  I wrote in my journal one day. 

I was angry with God.  Didn’t He see that I was faithfully serving Him?  I was working in full time ministry and I deserved this blessing I told myself.  God owed me something. 

In my demanding of God for a husband he gave me over to my foolish demands, just as he did to the nation of Israel.  

 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king…But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”- 1 Samuel 8:6-7 & 20-22
Israel rejected God as their King and demanded the LORD for a king to lead them.  In their foolishness they wouldn’t listen to Samuel nor remember the faithfulness and goodness of the LORD who delivered them out of slavery.  Instead they focused on those around them who had a king and so they demanded God for one.  Although it wasn’t good for them in order to teach them about who He is God gives them over.  As the story goes, it doesn’t go well for them and they eventually come to realize they were foolish in asking for a King, but they have to live with the consequences of their decision. 

God gave me over as well.  In fact, He gave me over twice, yes, twice.  You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time.  The first time around I was so angry and demanding of God that He put a Christian man in my life.   He and I dated, got engaged and were almost married, before the brakes got put on 10 days before the wedding.  I was so desperate for a husband that in my unhealthiness I ignored the emotional abuse and controlling behaviors.  Had we married it would have been a disaster.  This was devastating to me that I had put so much of my time and effort to make this relationship work and it only ended in the long run.  I felt like I was standing in the middle of the desert and God had put me face to face with my sin.  I realized that I had made my desire for marriage an idol above my relationship with Jesus.  I repented, and God has brought healing, but oh, it was so very painful to walk through. 

The second time around, my issue was internet dating.  I was searching the internet looking for love.  It was my way to control my loneliness.  I could always find someone just as lonely as me to talk to or who was interested in me.  I dated a number of guys that I met off the internet, but all of those relationships ended.  I didn’t get it until God completely humbled me.  It was a man who I met on the internet, there was a good amount of distance between us and so we’d Skype and email all the time.  I thought for sure this man was my husband.  Until we met for the first time and I realized, wow, I had made a terrible mistake.  This “internet” relationship I had that seemed so perfect was not perfect in real life.  Although, he was and is a great man of God we both realized that our seemingly perfect cyber relationship wasn’t real in the real world. 

I was humiliated.  I was done with me being in control.  I cried out to the LORD for forgiveness.  This time I really was done with me. 

As I clung to the Lord in repentance over my foolishness I was very specific in how I prayed for a husband.  My hope was in Jesus.  He was and is my joy.  I was done looking to men to give me joy.  I was set on finding my hope and joy in Jesus Christ alone. 

As God’s providence would have it He placed a man in my life nearly two years ago who I thought was pretty cute, but I didn’t know much else about him other than he was a Christian.  As God’s grace would have it this man and I became friends.  We got to know one another as a brother and sister in Christ and God by His divine providence moved this man into the apartment right underneath me.  Our friendship grew and before we knew it our friendship turned into love. 

Rodrigo is everything that I have prayed for.  I am convinced that He is God’s choice for me.  He loves Jesus and He loves me.  He is a good man who I believe will lay down his life to provide for me and protect me. 

I am overwhelmed that God has provided and met this deep longing in my heart.  He used this deep longing to teach me so much about Jesus and strip me of sin.  I fell more in love with Jesus as I held fast to Him in repentance.  God is so good.  I’m so very thankful for His love. 


I look forward to the day that Rodrigo and I will be married (June 28th of this summer!).  Yet, I know that my greatest joy is not in a husband but in Jesus Christ who is my delight. 

Author- Heather Douglas 

Heather is in love with Jesus Christ.  She is the Youth Ministry Director at the First Baptist Church in Aledo, IL.  She loves teenagers, laughter, and fitness.  When she's not keeping junior high boys from killing each other you can find her at the YMCA getting in a good sweat or out somewhere laughing with friends.  She's also a twin and lives where she was born and raised, serving at the church she grew up in.