Words

Each year, I ask God for a word or a phrase that might mark the coming season of my life. Perhaps it is something He wants to teach me, something I should be looking for or have a heightened awareness of. Words like “Rooted”,”Margin”, “Expectant” and “Prayerful” have marked past years. Sometimes words only last for a season and a new one comes before the end of the year… sometimes what I thought they meant morph and change – like when becoming “rooted” did not in fact mean being rooted in a place, but rooted in Christ as He uprooted our family and moved us just over 3 years ago.

This past year, the words “trust, faith and adventure” have marked much of Marshall’s and my prayer life. We have become hopeful and expectant for God to grow our trust in Him, and no doubt He has. In fact, January 1st, the first day of the new year, our adventure really began. It was Marshall’s last official day in over eleven years on Young Life staff, and the emotions were raw and varied to be sure. Tears and gratitude came first. To think that over 11 years ago, his first day on staff was marked by him leaving the basement of a little house on Mercer Island as a newly engaged man and stepping out into the world with barely a clue of how to begin his day. And here we were a lifetime later, him stepping out the door on a Friday morning after kissing his wife and four little boys goodbye, heading to an office to part with beloved staff and commemorating over a decade of relationships built from within the fold of a beautiful mission. How a decade has changed the landscape of our lives.

But just past the bitter of good bye is the sweet of a new season. The other phrase that the Lord gave me months ago was “wide open spaces.”  Yes, I think it is a Dixie Chicks song, but that is neither here nor there. As we walked through many different job opportunities and subsequent offers, dreamt and prayed about several possible locations, I knew that God was leading us to more space – in our schedule and our brains and our hearts – to a life that was “unfettered” in a way.

Each offer and decision to be made lacked the peace we knew we needed to say yes. And so we continued to seek the Lord.

Sure enough, God’s peace fell on the place that wFullSizeRender.jpge last expected – the “non-job”. No salary, no title, no umbrella organization; just a simple vision to love and pursue people well, particularly those in ministry, particularly those setting out in life and marriage and family and leadership. And while we thought at first we would wait and begin developing this nebulous vision as we settled into several more months on staff, it was in a little cabin in the middle of Oregon, as Marshall and I prayed, that God’s peace fell heavy on the word “JUMP”. And one week later we met with Marshall’s graciously thoughtful and supportive boss to inform him of the greatest trust fall we have endeavored thus far in our lives. His receptivity and clearly faith-filled encouragement to follow Jesus at whatever cost was a treasure to us.

Leaving Young Life Staff and beginning to lean into the vision God has given us – a simply radical calling to listen to Jesus and love people well – has enlivened our marriage and our family and blown up what seems now to have been our rather small faith. To pursue with great intention those the Lord lays on our hearts and listen to and encourage and equip such that those people might serve out of the overflow of their hearts- this feels like wide open spaces. It feels a bit terrifying, and a bit wild and very much still in the nebulous phases. And it feels a whole lot like faith and adventure.

I think about the way that Jesus lived, how he moved throughout his days. I think particularly about one of my favorite accounts of him – when Jesus went to Peter’s mother in-law’s home {hello, Peter had a wife?! I am so curious about that woman!} and was healing late into the night, then woke up early the next morning to go to the mountainside to pray. And the disciples show up calling out “everyone is looking for you!” But Jesus, unurrried and not at all swayed by the clamorous demands of his friends, responds simply with, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came.”

Clarity of direction. Surety of purpose.

It caused me to wonder. Where did his confidence come from? How did he know where he was going? How was he not deterred, even the slightest bit interrupted?  He is certainly not calloused to peoples needs as we see from the night of responding to everyone in the town the night before; he is certainly interruptable as we see when the bleeding woman came to him in the midst of the crowds.

But this is something different. It is as if at the start of the day, he gets unique marching orders for that day.

Something must have happened in those early morning hours, away from the noise, as Jesus curled into himself and conversed with the Father and was comforted and emboldened by the Holy Spirit. Something about his time with God early in the morning refreshed him, refocused him. He clearly emerged confident in his purpose. So much so that the expectations of well intentioned friends and fellow travelers did not unsettle him.

What if we were to live that way? If each morrning we were to give God our time and space and heart and schedule. That wherever he would lead, we would go. Whomever he would highlight, we would listen to, come alongside, work with, serve, love. And that whatever he gave for us to do, we did it with all our hearts, kindly but assuredly letting no one deter us from what He has asked us to do.

I was recently advised by a wise counselor, “Consider everyone’s voice, but only listen to Jesus.”

Our first day in wide open spaces was January 2nd. Marshall’s birthday. Oswald Chamber’s words of My Utmost For His Highest on that day have become my – our – anthem:

January 2

Will You Go Out Without Knowing?

He went out, not knowing where he was going -Hebrews 11:8

Have you ever “gone out” in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?”You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in constant wonder, because you don’t know what God is going to do next. Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to “go out,” building your confidence in God. “. . . do not worry about your life . . . nor about the body . . .” (Luke 12:22). In other words, don’t worry about the things that concerned you before you did “go out.”

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do- He reveals to you who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you “go out” in complete surrender to Him until you are not surprised one iota by anything He does?

Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.

Copyright © 1992 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd. All rights reserved.

A dear friend of mine recently commented, “Emily, you seem like you have so much peace.” 

To which I replied, “Yes, yes I do,” with a smile spreading across my face.

“But you have no plan?!” She retorted, with puzzled laughter.

And I replied with a quiet chuckle, “Yes, yes I know.”

No, I do not know my plans. But I know the One who does. He is altogether trustworthy. He has proven himself over and over again.

It has only been a month, but already, oh the stories I could tell…


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