Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflections from 2013

When I began to think over the past year (2013), lots of thoughts scrambled together in my mind.  Some of those thoughts had to do with the many challenges that I (we) struggled with.  Others were what I consider to be highlights of the year, which I found to be more numerous than the struggles and challenges!  In this post, I want to share what I learned through the challenges as we enter into this New Year...
Do you know what surrender is?  Me, either.  Every time I thought I knew, I realized I still had no idea.  This past year has been probably the most challenging year here in Mozambique and it has done a lot to instruct me about surrender.  About a month away from this time last year, I was ready to pack up my house and my family and return to the U.S. with a one way ticket.  If you had asked me why, I wouldn't have been able to come up with a solid and clear answer.  All I knew was that I was tired and ready to go back to the simple, easy life back in the U.S. where I knew my kids would be fairly safe, I didn't have to worry about whether we'd have enough solar power to have lights or be able to use the computer, I didn't have to worry about whether or not our house would be broken into again, and I could actually eat real food that I didn't have to put so much work into in order to enjoy it! 
To intensify the desire to just pack up and quit, several challenges came up that just seemed to pile one on top of another.  Last January, one of our youngest daughters was seriously ill for several weeks and we had no idea why her healing didn't come quickly.  A few months into the year we began to have serious car trouble which resulted in thousands of dollars in car repairs.  Then, one of our 110 volt inverters (we use to turn solar energy into U.S. voltage for our U.S. electronics) got struck by lightning and stopped working.  Two replacement inverters that we were able to receive from the U.S. have also since stopped working for no apparent reason.  We'd never had problems like this before!  (Thankfully we were able to use our 220 volt inverter for our electronics that don't rely on a 110 volt inverter.)  To rub salt into the wound of this already trying time, we found out that we had to pay income taxes for the first time in our lives! 
I could go on for several paragraphs about other challenges that we faced; but I don't want to focus on any more of them because, throughout the year, I learned more about surrender.  When I finally stopped focusing on the challenges, God began to open my eyes to see His kingdom.  And He began to show me that we have a choice to walk in one of two very different realities:  His kingdom reality, or the reality of the world we live in.  Through several physical and painful personal attacks, I learned how to surrender to walk in His kingdom reality.  I learned that I can either sit back and focus on the challenge or I could look up and walk in His kingdom where things like pain, trials, and suffering are non-existent.  I learned that I can literally change my circumstances by trusting Him to allow me to walk in the reality of His kingdom.  Let me give you an example:  One morning I woke up in excruciating pain.  I had no idea where it came from.  There was absolutely no logical reason for me to have this pain.  I could barely move.  But I continued to get ready for breakfast, homeschool, etc.  After trying to act normal for some time, I told the kids I had to go lie down because I could barely sit or stand anymore due to the pain.  As I was lying in bed, I was praying, rebuking, pleading, and whatever else I felt to do in order for the pain to stop.  Suddenly, I decided that I was just going to believe that I could walk in His kingdom reality where there is no pain.  Even though I was still in excruciating pain and I could barely move, I decided to get up and go back to homeschool my children.  As I began to sit up, the pain suddenly left my body!  All of it!  It never came back.  I was walking in the reality of His kingdom.  I learned that I could surrender to His reality and therefore change my reality.  I could give several other personal experiences from this past year where His kingdom reality physically changed my reality, but that would make this blog too long!  
But have I learned anything yet about surrender?  What does it mean?  I had been looking forward to our Christmas holiday from homeschool for a long time and felt that I really needed to just rest and relax.  I had plans to bake Christmas cookies, make our traditional family gingerbread houses, read my kindle, and even get in a couple of blog posts before the year ended! None of that happened because my oldest daughter was too sick to enjoy any of it.  I spent all of the "holiday" doing her chores, sleeping in her room to make sure she was okay, praying for her, and just trying to see how to help her get better so that she could enjoy the time off of school.  I have recently been crying out to the Lord to teach me how to lay down my life for Him.  What does that mean?  How do I walk in His kingdom reality when my daughter is too sick to walk by herself to go to the bathroom?  When she has lost weight from not being able to eat regularly for 2 weeks?  What does surrender look like in all of this?  I found that it just looks like loving my daughter.  It looked like not baking Christmas cookies so that I could sit on the couch and just be with her.  It looked like not reading my kindle because I needed to spend time praying for her.  It looked like not being able to sleep some nights because she couldn't sleep.  Sometimes laying down your life for Him looks like laying down your life for someone else-in this case, my daughter.  A song from Hillsong says, "I surrender, I surrender, I want to know You more..."  Knowing Him more looks like loving Him more, and that looks like loving others more, and that looks like laying down your life, which looks like surrender.  I think I have finally learned a little something about surrender last year.  But may I learn even more this year! 
Happy New Year!!