Monday, May 15, 2017

Ministry Update and How We Have Been Doing

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

~Frances Ridley Havergal

I noticed this sweet little bunny sitting near my laundry basket of clothing that I had taken off the clothesline. :-)

Dear Friends, 

I wanted to update you all on how we have been doing since we moved recently and how the Lord has been working in our lives. For those of you who have been following the updates about our ministry, you know that we recently moved into the home and property that we eventually would like to convert into a place of rest for the Lord's people. For those of you who haven't been following these updates or who are new here, you may read more about how the Lord has been working in and through our lives in the following blog posts if you would like to--

Flying to A Summer Land
The Gift of Quietness
Grace in the Midwest Wilderness
When you Just Can't Do It
An Impossible Prayer Request
Midwest Ministry update

Please continue to pray for our family as we prepare this property for ministry and especially, as the Lord prepares our hearts for ministry . . . this week, the words of my middle school teacher came to my mind--"Keep the main thing the main thing." Those words have been upon my heart because I have realized afresh how easy it is to get caught up in the details and forget about the most important thing --bringing glory to the Father through a life of submission and trust in Him. 

There is so much to do--so much physical work, and yet, I need to remember that my main focus needs to be upon Jesus Christ--it is easy for me to get busy in the work and forget about Him. And ultimately, my main work is prayer; the outflow of that will be direction in what I need to do moment by moment. Please pray that my focus would be continually upon Him. 

And now, let me share with you a little about how we have been! :-) We have been doing a lot of "clean-up" work in the house and outside. Just a few days ago, I finally finished unpacking boxes and now my husband and I are hoping to begin painting the rooms in the house. 

The attic floor needed to be reinforced and so we had the pleasure of my brother -in-law (who works for an Amish construction company) and two of the brothers who work for the company reinforce the floor with a beautiful wooden beam. I am glad that I no longer need to worry about falling through the floor! :-) This is a great relief to me. :-)

We have also been working outside doing a great deal of raking, weeding and cleanup. It has been so wonderful as the spring came to see the various plants that are breaking through the beautiful soil--my Mom gave me a love for perennials, and so I am enjoying seeing the many perennial flowers that have been planted by the previous person who lived in the house coming up. 

I noticed this little toad while I was working outside. 

We are trying to maintain some wide paths on the property as well; my husband has been working on that and we hope to neaten up the field next to the house a little bit more once the animals are done with their nesting; we'll probably do this in the late Fall. 

And speaking of animals, I have just been amazed by all the little creatures who live "with" us here! Oh, I love it! Sweet little bunnies and toads and all different sorts of beautiful birds and deer and who knows what else! It is so precious to experience the Lord's creation in such a close way and to hear the birds singing at night and in the morning. 

I found this bunny nest in one of the plants in the garden--right near our backdoor! I think that the clothesline bunny may have been born here. 

I have thought on several occasions--if it is so beautiful in this place, imagine how glorious Heaven and the New Earth will be. 

I feel close to the Lord here in the sense that His creation draws me to think about Him and to marvel at His works. Our neighbors have a large field behind our barn and I love to walk along the path with my children and smell the fresh spring air and hear the birds bringing glory to the Father. I have to admit, sometimes, especially when I am wearing my grey woolen sweater, I am tempted to imagine that I am Anne of Green Gables, watching Martin bring in the cows! ;-). Oh, the Lord has been so kind to allow me to taste His beauty in these ways. 

And we want to share this with the Lord's people . . . I am so excited to see how the Lord will work in and through this place. I look back and see His perfect provision for me and for my family throughout my life --and how He used trials and very difficult times to draw me closer to Himself. 

And I know that He is with me here and that He will sustain me. 

Another little bunny peeks out from between these two rocks near the potting shed; he also likes to hide under the rhubarb! :-)

I am also just so grateful to be closer to our church and our precious family in the Lord there. I was reminded again of how thankful I am to the Lord for this church as my little daughter and I recently went to a Mother Daughter Tea that the church held. It was so wonderful to fellowship with the ladies there! Our family has also just been so blessed by the Pastor's sermons and his Spirit-filled emphasis upon the Gospel and love for the lost. We are so thankful to the Lord for His leading us to the church. 

And one more update--we have designated one of the outbuildings on the property the "missionary house"---we are hoping to repair the roof and fix up the inside in the coming years. It is already structurally sound--it just needs to be converted into a place where people can stay. We are very excited about working on that in the near future and I have been collecting things to furnish it, etc. 

I will just leave you with this quote, one that the Lord pressed upon my heart so heavily when I left my beloved New England. And now I see His mercy here and the beauty that He prepared for me --beauty from ashes--

God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours.

David Livingstone

Please remember me and my family in your prayers, beloved friends. And please let me know if there is anything that I may pray about for you! 

Even Mr. Pinch, my sister and brother-in-law's elderly pug is enjoying visiting here! :-) Here he is, taking a bath in our kitchen sink. :-)

You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthInspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Mom's Morning Coffee, Raising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story, Women With Intention WednesdaysMessy Marriage,  Graced Simplicity, Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdaySoul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewCounting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayTell It To Me TuesdaysSHINE Blog HopTGI Saturdays Blog HopRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayLiving Proverbs 31Sharing His Beauty Blog LinkupCoffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart Party, Oh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday Linkup

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Take the Very Hardest Thing~Becoming a Woman of Strength

I was recently asked to speak at a Ladies Tea that our church held. I thought that I would share the talk that I prepared for that event . . .  I pray that the Lord may use it as an encouragement to you! 

I remember the day clearly. It was dreary and cold and my children and I had just come down into the kitchen for breakfast. My spirits were low. I felt joyless and alone. We had recently moved to Wisconsin from Rhode Island. My husband and I shared a car at that point and I was home each day of the week with my two little children while my husband was at work. I felt discouraged. As David so aptly described it in the Psalms, "my soul was downcast within me." My husband and I had come with our family to Wisconsin out of obedience to a calling that the Lord placed upon our lives. I was absolutely convinced of that. But the day in and day out obedience in a different place where I was struggling to adjust with two very little children was difficult. 

I remember thinking, half-praying in my mind as I stood at the old porcelain sink washing dishes--I don't have the strength for this. I honestly believed that I didn't. I had relocated halfway across the country and I missed my family and friends--I did not know at that point how long it would be before I saw my family again, my husband worked long days, we were on an extremely tight budget and the cold weather did not help my mood. 

Immediately as that thought came to me--that I didn't have the strength--I heard the Lord speak to my heart--"the joy of the Lord is your strength." And this thought came from outside of my downtrodden mood--I knew very clearly that the Spirit of the Lord was communicating with me. 

Immediately, in that moment, the Lord gave me strength. Joy flooded my heart and the day did not seem dreary anymore. The thought kept coming to me --the joy of the Lord is your strength, the joy of the Lord is your strength.  The Lord replaced my unrest and sadness with a peace that passes understanding and a great joy in and though my circumstances. 

The joy of the Lord is our strength. 

That is what I have found over and over again in this past year and a half and throughout my life. That He is my strength and that He is able to give me strength when I feel like I cannot do something or feel something or be something. 

He is my strength--and yours, too---in whatever circumstances we face--

And I don't want to try to pretend to understand completely the circumstances that God has placed you in. Some of you have faced or are facing very difficult roads. I have experienced very dark times in my own life where I felt utterly forsaken and abandoned by God. And I can only say that the Lord Himself must come to you in those circumstances and give you His strength. He will--He is the same God who gave strength to Christ Jesus to face the death of Calvary. He is able to give strength in the darkest place even in the shadow of death.  He will come to you in your circumstances just where you realize that you cannot handle them without Him.

I have found so many times that when I try to produce "strength" in and through my own efforts, I always fail and become discouraged, whereas when I rely upon Jesus Christ and wait upon Him, He supplies me with strength at just the time when I need it. 

We receive strength when we relinquish our own efforts to produce it and allow Him to work out His strength in and though our weakness. He says to us in Philippians 4:13 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. "

The paradox of His strength comes in here--that we know His strength when we humble ourselves in weakness before Him. 

That is where He makes us strong. That is where He fills us. That is where we receive joy and strength to face our circumstances whatever they may be. 

His strength is made perfect in weakness.

The Lord makes each person different, but each one with a capability of knowing His strength in weakness. I have a personality that is naturally reserved and introverted. So when the Lord spoke to me about 16 years ago, calling me to begin a ministry of hospitality to missionaries, pastors and their families, and fellow believers, it was a surprise to me.

That is the reason that we came to Wisconsin--we took a step of faith after many years of prayer and seeking the Lord's will in where He wanted us to begin the ministry He called us to.  We saw His hand in so many countless ways and were convinced of His leading us here.

But coming here was a step that I would not have naturally taken. I am by nature an introverted, quiet person, a creature of habit. I loved New England--loved it-- with its history and haunts, with its charm and feel. I am not a thrill seeker or an adventure-taker. I enjoy eating at the same restaurant, drinking the same flavor of coffee from the same cup day after day, month after month. I used to walk a lot for exercise and I would hesitate to change my familiar route, even for years. I find comfort in routine.

In all honesty, I did not want to come here. I dreaded coming here. 

But I wanted to obey the Lord--more than anything else--and He convinced me that His grace would be sufficient for me here--and it has. 

As believers, as Christian women, we are not limited by our natural capabilities. Instead, the Lord calls us to bring our weakness, our lack, and our shortcomings to Him, so that we may experience His power working through us and the glory may be His and not ours. He loves to work where we cannot see a way, even in ourselves.

I was introduced to the writings of Lilias Trotter through one of Elisabeth Elliots' books years ago. Lilias Trotter was a missionary to the Algiers who was physically weak--initially, Missions boards refused her as a missionary candidate because of her health. She paid her own way and the Lord greatly used her there until her death. Lilias Trotter wrote--Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot.  Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.”   

Take the very hardest  thing--

Take whatever you struggle with--whatever it is you think that you cannot handle in your life and offer it to Him. Offer it to Him in surrender. And then see what He does as you patiently wait upon Him.. 

It is and has been the stories of missionaries and Christian women like Lilias Trotter, Amy Carmichael, and Susannah Wesley who have been such an encouragement to me in my own life to follow the Lord no matter how inadequate, weak, or helpless I may feel. Feelings come and go--but the strength of the Lord is a continual promise. Take His strength, regardless of your feelings and lean into Him as your strength. You will find Him every time you humble yourself under His mighty hand. And you will be strong in Him.

Take the very hardest thing, and surrender it to the Lord.

Read the word of God, memorize it, learn hymns, read missionary biographies. If you have small children and are unable to find that "quiet" time with the Lord that you crave, listen to sermon tapes or solid ministers on the local Christian radio station. This has been a tremendous help to me, and something that I always remember my Mom doing when my sisters and I were very little. 

This is how we become stronger in the Lord, how we embrace His strength--through immersing ourselves in his Word and promises. We become strong through admitting our weakness and then embracing His strength-- not trying to take the bull by the horns and show everyone how capable we are in our own strength.

He will enable us to do whatever it is that He has called us to do. 

Do you feel weak in any particular area? Good! It is an opportunity to take the Lord's strength. 

Take the hardest thing--and expect God to come through there in your life. 

This is how we become strong women who trust in the Lord--

Strong in difficult, painful marriages . . . 

Strong in the midst of health problems . . . 

Strong when we are faced with an impossible relationship . . . 

Strong in the midst of financial strain. 

Take the hardest thing--and offer it to the Lord in obedience and surrender. 

Remember that the Lord uses weak people who hold onto His strength.

The world tells us that to be strong women we need to assert ourselves, demand our rights, do what makes us feel good, and pursue our dreams and goals selfishly, that we need to be brash and headstrong and in control. 

But this is not real strength. Because strength is not what comes from within ourselves--it is a gift that comes through Someone greater than ourselves--true strength comes from Christ, the One who humbled himself, who laid aside His own rights, who forfeited an earthly crown for a heavenly kingdom, who took the last place and washed the feet of His disciples. 

True strength comes through surrender, through yielding oneself to the will of the Father, not grasping at whatever makes us feel happy and fulfilled in the immediate moment.

True strength comes from Jesus Christ. 

True strength is eyes of steel focused on the glory of the Father, hearts of compassion for a dying world around us, and a face set like flint to do the will of the Father--whatever that may be for your life. It is a strength that the world cannot understand. And--

His strength will crown us with beauty

His strength will clothe us with dignity

His strength will cover us with grace. 

We will be able to laugh at the days to come because we know that He holds them perfectly in His hand. 

I'd like to end with this quote from Elisabeth Elliot because it speaks so wonderfully to this subject-- We are called to be women. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman. For I have accepted God's idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be.

May we be clothed with strength and dignity and laugh at the days to come--because He is our strength.