Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making opportunities to be useful

If you read this blog at all, you know by the title that I am seeking to understand and expound upon what it means to be useful for service to the Lord. I have been pondering this thought for a little over a year now, following a time in my life when the Lord brought me to a very low point personally to reveal to me just how selfish my views of ministry and service really were!

I have been in my new "home" of Louisville, KY for a little over 2 months - and I have been away from my home in Ormond Beach, FL for 3 months! Relocating here is something that took a few people by surprise and left others skeptical, while my dearest friends were thrilled beyond belief! These close brothers and sisters knew it was coming eventually, and God had laid the groundwork months before - even years before - that played a part in my decision to take this route. I still don't really know how permanent my stay here will be. At this point I have committed with my family to be here at least one year and then reassess the situation at that time. But as I consider how things have progressed to this point, let me explain my thoughts leading up to this decision and the current state of my mind.

I have known for a number of years that God has called me, gifted me, and equipped me for ministry to young women. That is my primary ministry calling, and the one for which I have trained, studied and prayed. I certainly desire marriage and family first and foremost; however, in God's good plan for me He has not brought that to pass at this point. What am I to do? Sit on my hands and work jobs that are not fulfilling my calling for the rest of my life? I am not content to do that, and had grown increasingly restless at that prospect in recent years.

The Lord has given me a rich spiritual heritage in my family and in the covenant community of Riverbend Community Church in Florida. In fact, those things have been such a precious and important part of my spiritual maturity that it caused me great turmoil to consider leaving them indefinitely. Taking a few weeks or even a couple months for a mission stay in Romania or South Africa was hard, but this decision was much more difficult. I knew that if I moved to Louisville, it would be for at least a year or more.

In recent years, I came to rely heavily on the support system of my spiritual mentors and friends in Florida, to the point that the Lord intervened in a very dramatic way a couple years ago. It's a long story, but the summary point is that I needed to be broken of these "crutches" in order to fully pursue God's will for my life! Two very precious friends confronted me about the manner in which I was responding to my life circumstances - I was drowning in emotional distress. Though I was initially offended at their words, with time and intentional reflection, I was able to see the reality of my weakness being exposed, and am now eternally grateful for the ways in which they poured loving counsel into my life! It became clear that the very ministry I wanted to pursue with my life had to be fleshed out in my own heart in order for me to truly love Christ and serve Him! I truly believe that God oftentimes allows us to reach some deep recesses of our sinful tendencies in order to use those exact weaknesses as a means of ministering to others. I have learned over the years that emotional instability and inward-focused thinking is one of the most common sins women struggle with. While emotions in and of themselves are not sinful, they can be expressed and cultivated in a sinful manner.

Usefulness means we have to be willing to go and do the things that might typically be hardest for us. We have to make intentional opportunities to be useful. I think we have a tendency to get comfortable in a place and almost stay in a "bubble" so to speak, which then makes it extremely difficult to identify ways in which God may be calling us to something else. We are often convinced that because things are going smoothly, there is no reason to consider other opportunities. It may not be until years later that we recognize a unique option that we overlooked simply because we were content. This is the rub of being content in a biblically accurate way while being discontent with standing still. The Lord has used so many people and circumstances from my life in Florida to prepare me for something else - maybe someday that will still mean returning to Florida, but for this season, it means coming to Louisville.

He is teaching me that I am able to respond rightly in any situation and circumstance because of Jesus - and that is the ONE thing I have learned most throughout this process! I am not claiming that I actually do respond correctly every time, however, I know that I am able to - because of Jesus. Christ is truly my greatest confidante, my most loyal friend, the wisest counselor...He has given me all that I need in order to live a life that is pleasing to God, whether I am right next door to all my loved ones, or thousands of miles away with no promise of a soon-coming reunion! All that being said, many of you have asked how you can pray for me and since it is difficult for me to respond to each of you individually, I thought I would mention a few prayer concerns here:

1. Pray that I would be faithful in my personal Bible study daily. It's easy when I am in theology classes and working in a Christian environment to feel like I am being fed regularly but I want to be diligent with my intentional private study.
2. Pray for the many other seminary and college women I am encountering each day. There are so many opportunities to serve and love others - pray that I would seize them!
3. I am being considered for a mentoring "position" here at the school so pray for the selection process to be favorable toward me since my desire is to work with young women.
4. Pray for my parents and their ongoing health and jobs - it's much harder to consider those things when I am so far away. God has been extremely faithful to us, and we praise Him for that!
5. Pray that God would honor my desire for a husband and children, and that He would provide quickly! And praise Him with me that He continues to bring me great delight and comfort in Him as I wait upon those things.
6. Pray for my transition to a new church. There is no easy way to do that after being so blessed for over a decade at Riverbend, but I know that God's people are scattered everywhere and He calls us to live in community with one another.
7. Pray for safety, health and financial provisions in the coming weeks as I plan to drive home to Florida for Thanksgiving and then to Rhode Island for Christmas.

THANK YOU to so many of you who have faithfully prayed for, encouraged and offered support to me during this huge transition! I could not have asked for a better experience thus far and I look forward to seeing how the Lord continues to guide my steps.

"Seek with your whole soul, first and foremost, the kingdom of God, as the place of your citizenship, and His righteousness as the character of your life. As for the rest, it will come from the Lord Himself without your being anxious concerning it. All that is needful for this life and godliness 'shall be added unto you.' What a promise this is!" (Charles Spurgeon)

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