This isn't the blog post I had planned.
After all, this isn't the year I had planned either.
It's New Year's Eve.
I am supposed to post some sappy motivational post on the new year. I am supposed to encourage you with positive words. That's what New Year's posts are right?
Oh, and of course I have to throw these verses in there:
Philippians 3:13-14 "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
It just doesn't qualify for a New Year's post without those verses.
But, like I said...
This year wasn't anything like I anticipated.
It wasn't anything like I had planned.
(Please don't call me a missionary hero. I think this post will show you I am as human as you. No, the Hero of this story is much greater... much wiser... much more patient than me.)
2015 started off amazingly!
I had my goals, my dreams, my plans.
I had organized and prepared.
I know it sounds all carnal, but I really had great goals in mind. I wanted to grow in Christ, so I redesigned my private devotion time and Bible study time to be more productive. I wanted to improve in ministry, so I had grand plans for that, too. I wanted to get in shape, so I began eating right and exercising. I wanted to grow as a wife and mother and... and... and... I had the goals and the plans of how I was going to get there.
It wasn't that my goals or my plans were misplaced. But something was definitely misplaced...
Like I said, the year started off great. I lost 25 pounds and was heading down the path I had planned and prepared for from January 1st.
Then came March.
I had a sudden battle with insomnia. For the entire month, I slept only an hour or two a night. Toward the end of the month, I couldn't think. I couldn't function. I couldn't make decisions well. I couldn't even drive my scooter because I was afraid I would hurt someone. And then as suddenly as the insomnia came, it was gone. So I continued down the path of my plans.
Early in April, just as I was finally recovering from insomnia, I had the joy of getting giardia. In case you don't know what giardia is, think tummy parasites. It was a nasty case of it, too. Again, I was getting little sleep, but it wasn't because I wasn't sleepy! I was just sick! But finally, I began recovering from that, too. My energy returned. It helped with weight loss in the most unpleasant ways, but I had to work hard to get back into exercising.
Then came April 25...
The day my world shook to the core... literally. A devastating earthquake brought my illusions of control crashing to the ground. My plans stopped that day.
I guess it was from that moment I really began understanding what God was doing in my life. The hardships I was enduring were not by accident. They were by design. I began seeing how little I was really in control. It was good to have goals and to aim toward those goals, but there are some things God chooses to teach us through the refining fires of trials.
1 Peter 1:7 "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"
With the earthquakes came the relief work. For four months, we worked and labored to exhaustion. We had no schedule. We had no plans. I am a person who thrives off of calendars and clocks and lists... but it was all yanked away from me like a parent yanking away danger from a small child. And just like a child, I cried. I wanted my routine back.
As relief work began to finally slow down and we began to catch our breath, the next crisis began. Our country began experiencing major shortages of supplies and fuels due to protests and blockades at the border entry points. We had to learn to cook differently because of lack of cooking gas. We had to learn to get around the city differently because of lack of petrol and diesel. We purchased bicycles for the family and used those as much as we possibly could. We spent hours in petrol lines, and sometimes walked away empty-handed.
My daughter's birthday was at the end of November. A protest kept us from doing our original plan. Daddy took her on a fun bicycle ride, just the two of them. When they returned home, I was reminded again just how little I am in control. She crashed hard trying to go down a steep, rocky hill. As she walked through the door, I could see blood streaming down her arms. She was hobbling as she came in so I knew there was more to her injuries than just her arms. As we went to get her cleaned up, I saw her side looked like spaghetti. This would be the worst injury I ever dealt with on my own. Through tears, hers and a few of my own, we got her cleaned up. We praised the Lord that nothing was broken and that her special smile drowned out the pain. It took a couple of weeks for her to heal and be able to get around like normal.
And just as she recovered...
I got a call from my son. He had taken his bicycle to go to language school for his final exam. He didn't make it there. His call was confusing, and I could tell he was injured pretty badly. Someone had walked out in front of his bicycle and caused him to lose control. He crashed and hit his head on the corner of a sidewalk. His helmet strap had cracked and caused his helmet to slide forward, exposing the back of his head to the concrete. I was thankful he could even think clearly enough to call me, though he actually called twice because he forgot he had already called. When I arrived where he was, I knew it was bad. Blood streamed from his head and he wasn't remembering things. He still doesn't remember me picking him up or taking him to the emergency room. He and I stayed in the hospital overnight together. It was special quality time, taking care of my baby boy before he heads off to college next year. It wasn't exactly ideal mother-son time, but I was glad I could be there for him. He finally had his stitches removed from his head...
Just in time for the next emergency for our family.
We were heading on the way to church. The roads on our way to church are more like an adventure you would see on a reality TV show about guys showing off their 4x4 vehicles. While on the road, suddenly my side began to hurt. The pain grew quickly. By the time we got to the church, all I could do is lay in the floor and cry. There was no way around it... it was time to go to the emergency room. Unfortunately, that meant going back over the road we just came on... while feeling pain that was no less than child birth level.
When we arrived at the hospital, the diagnosis was easy and quick. There was a huge stone lodged in the tube exiting my gallbladder. The gallbladder would have to go. This was not exactly the plans I had. We had the biggest ministry day of the year coming up in two days... on Christmas! But I would be in the hospital. My two older children took turns staying with me overnight. And though it wasn't exactly a great date location to spend time with them, I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.
This was not the year I had planned.
But God's plans were much better.
Isaiah 55:9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
You see, God didn't put all these things in my path to punish me or humiliate me or to even prove to me He is the boss and I am not. His plan was much more well-designed than those petty things. He was lovingly refining me.
The year I learned to trust His sovereignty.
Psalm 115:3 "But our God [is] in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased."
The year I learned to cast my fears upon Him. I had always known well how to strong-arm my fears and to cage them in a closet. I thought I was being spiritual because I wasn't being controlled by my fears. But really, I was being fleshly and doing things in my own strength. Earthquakes, dangers, injuries... When the fears mounted up and threatened to come crashing around me, I realized it was time to learn how to do things God's way. I learned how to admit my fears and cast them at His feet, trusting Him in faith.
1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
The year I learned to count it all joy.
James 1:2-3 "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience."
The year I watched Him do a work that man can never do... softening hearts toward the Gospel... opening doors that seemed impossible.
Revelation 3:8 "... I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it..."
The year I learned what it means to PRESS toward... and not just stroll forward.
Philippians 3:14b "... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
I grew closer to my children, closer to my husband, and closer to the Lord.
There are many parts of this year that were difficult and I would rather not do it again, but I wouldn't trade 2015 for anything. The most difficult year of my life was also the most rewarding. And I accomplished so many of my goals, though clearly God chose the method.
The year I let go of my plans and wholeheartedly finally embraced HIS plans for me.
Yes, some growth only happens through purging and through the refining fires of trials.
Philippians 1:12 "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;"