This month has held the biggest challenges of the race so far, and the race as a whole has been very difficult.
I started out the month falling in love with some precious Cambodian children. After just a few short days, through a rather traumatic whirlwind, the rug was pulled out from under me and my team and we had to leave the kids we loved and watch as they were separated and placed in new orphanages.
We settled into a hotel and did what we could to see the kids again. After just one visit– whoosh— the rug below us was pulled out again as we were told we would be moving to Thailand within 24 hours.
After a long and draining travel day, I was relieved to finally arrive at the new location. It seemed like an oasis, a much needed reprieve after the events of the past week. We hung Christmas decorations and scouted out the area around our new home when– whoosh– the rug was pulled away yet again when we were told we wouldn’t be staying here but would be moved several hours away to a rural church to help with children’s ministry for 11 days.
Over and over I would settle in, put down roots, imagine Christmas in my new surroundings… only to have it all overturned and start at the beginning again. Three times in a week.
Everything seemed so unstable, so scary.
My whole team was shaken up badly by the events and we didn’t know how we would pull through while also supporting one another through the trial.
Homesickness ran me over like an 18-wheeler on the interstate. In the depths of my heart, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think, “I want to go home,” over and over and over.
I longed for stability, comfort, family, friends, safety, familiarity. Nothing about the race was satisfying me and I longed for the pleasures of home so much it hurt.
I had long conversations with my team, home, and even the World Race staff about whether or not I should leave and come home early.
Before leaving Bangkok for this rural location, I decided to stick it out until at least the end of January, when I would decide whether I should stay or go.
Not long after I arrived here, I made my way up to the roof to listen to a sermon and spend some time with God. Through the words in the sermon podcast, my Father spoke to me very clearly:
Daughter, I am so proud of you. And I love the way you love people, and I love the way you don’t back off, and I love the way that you didn’t quit when you could’ve quit. But I just want you to know that I love your heart and I’m proud of you.
Is there anything sweeter than hearing the Father declare His love for you and joy in you?
The decision not to quit when I had every justifiable reason to do so was very difficult… but Daddy told me He was proud of me for not giving up!
I felt warmed by His words, comforted by His affirmation.
As God strengthened my weary heart with His loving, tender mercy, He also began to teach me a little something about myself and my relationship with Him.
I was reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller when I came across this:
Then the Bible says that human beings were made in God’s image. That means, among other things, that we were created to worship and live for God’s glory, not our own. We were made to serve God and others. That means paradoxically that if we try to put our own happiness ahead of obedience to God, we violate our own nature and become, ultimately, miserable.
2 Corinthians 5:15 tells us that because Jesus died for all, “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
God began to show me that my desire to go home was of my flesh and not of Him. He asked me to once again lay down my desires for home and comfort and family and friends and familiarity. He asked me to take up my cross and follow Him– into the rural areas, into the places where no one has heard of His love for them, into ministry, into the refining fire of sacrifice and selflessness.
As He sang with love and joy and pride over me, He also called me forth into more– more sacrifice, more selflessness, more obedience, more trust.
More of Him, less of me.
More of His plan, less of mine.
More of His desires, less of my longings.
Jesus promises that if I lay down my life for His sake, I will find true life (Matthew 10:39). He promises that joy is on the other side of giving up my wishes and crucifying my flesh.
I’ve decided to take Him at His Word on that.
I’m choosing here when my flesh wants home.
I’m choosing ministry when my flesh wants to put up protective walls around my heart.
I’m choosing World Race community when my flesh wants to run back to the relationships I cherish in the US.
I’m listening to the voice of my Father and following Him. I don’t know what is waiting for me on the other side of this refining fire, but I trust His plan and have hope that whatever it is will be worth it all because I believe that Jesus is worth it all.
I can lay down the life I love so much back home because Christ first laid down His life for me.
I can leave home for the uncomfortable and unfamiliar because Christ first left Heaven for Earth.
I can deny myself comfort and safety and familiarity because Christ first laid those things down for me and embraced the cross.
I can love others even when it hurts because Christ first loved me.
Yes, it’s true that part of me wants to come home. But I’m learning that the Christian life isn’t about what I want. The Gospel isn’t about what I want. It’s about laying down everything I want to take up what He wants for me so that I may know Him and make Him known.
I’m scared and homesick, but this feels right. Following Him, obeying Him, trusting Him… it all feels right. Not easy, but so right. Because this is the life I was created to live. This is the love I was formed to discover. And I’m all in.
Note to Supporters: Please don’t mistake my longings for home as a lack of appreciation for the sacrifices you’ve made to send me here or the encouraging words you’ve spoken to me along the way or the prayers you’ve prayed on my behalf. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but through it all, I’m grasping the Gospel in a way I never have before. That is a huge gift and I thank you for putting me in a place to receive it. I also want you to know that in the darkest days where I was most tempted to leave the race, it was your encouraging words, letters, and the financial support you’ve poured out over the past year that kept me here until I could hear clearly from the Lord and be filled with His strength to stay. I couldn’t have come without you, and I couldn’t have made it through this month without you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting me.