I just had the most amazing week. I’m sitting here, drinking a big glass of smooth red wine, eating a box of chocolates, and enjoying my new favorite worship song (At the Foot of the Cross). And I can’t help but marvel at what happened this week. I’m having a hard time processing it all, and so feel compelled to write. Even if it’s in between sips of wine and bites of milk chocolate.
It started last Sunday night. Shortly following our baptism service, I felt the familiar cloud of discouragement come over me. I’ve experienced this so much since starting the church that I immediately identify it as the enemy. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. So I was just generally discouraged. Not for any particular reason – it just seems to come at times that I would otherwise be rejoicing in God’s work (I mean, 4 children just got baptized!!!). But there I was, discouraged and defeated.
On top of that, [mmm. chocolate], Niki and I had recently had a talk about how our ministry to the poor, orphaned, and captive were not achieving the goals we wanted because…well…we had not set well-defined goals. Normally not a big deal, except that I am one of the people leading those efforts and – suffice it to say – I have not been doing a good job in this area. And was feeling generally hopeless, helpless, and directionless. Like we bit off too much to chew, would never make a difference, and didn’t know where to go from here. So that had me down.
And I hit a glitch with our adoption paperwork. It just felt like we’d never get this done. Would this ever happen? Again, where do we go from here? And, I’m failing even at this, my dream.
And Niki and I had to have a difficult conversation with someone we love, and we had to do it this week. It had great potential to go horribly, so that had me down.
Then we found out that someone else made a stronger offer on the building space we found last Friday. After 9 months of searching for a space, this one fit us the best for so many reasons – from price, to layout, to location, to parking, to feel. It so felt like a God-thing – the perfect building in a perfect place at the perfect price. And then this. Is God really looking out for us? Is he even working on our behalf, like he promises? How many times do my hopes have to be dashed?
Then my dear, dear friend was hospitalized in the ER — again — for the umteenth time this year. Her friend called us late at night to tell us that the doctors believed she had a heart attack based on damage evident in her EKG and asked if we could please pray.
And now it was just Monday night. I’m not even kidding you.
I remember praying Tuesday morning and just saying, “God, if you’re even listening – or even care – I’m really struggling here. It just seems like everything’s falling apart. I’m having a hard time finding any reason to be happy – or to trust that this will all work out. I wonder whether anything great is happening in the spiritual lives of those in our church. Are we making a difference for your kingdom? Am I making a difference in the spiritual life of anyone? I’m dreading this conversation with our loved one. Will our love be understood? Will this person even like us after this? I know we have to do this, but this could be the end of our relationship. Normally, I would have no problem trusting you to reign supreme over this. But right now… Why is this so hard? I wonder whether we’ll ever find a larger space for the church. Are we going to be stunted forever by the 4 walls of our 20×15 living room? Is my dear friend going to live? I’ve been praying for her healing for a year and a half now. I recently committed to following all your promptings to pray for healing, believing that you have already answered my prayer to give me the gift of healing. Is this some sick joke? After all my praying, my friend has a heart attack? On top of all this, I know I surrendered my faithlessness to you 3 weeks ago. And here I am. Lacking faith just like the disciples in the storm. Maybe I have this all wrong. Look, I just don’t think I can take anything else. I am so discouraged that even the slightest harsh word, cold shoulder, or curt email will push me over. So … just so you know. If you’re even listening.
But, I chose to walk in faith. I kept praying – after all, there was a LOT on the line. And I fasted, too. There’s power in that, even though I don’t fully comprehend it. And this is what happened.
I got more “random” emails than ever this week with the most uplifting, powerful words of encouragement. I printed them off and put them in my diary to remember for all time – they were that amazing. I got at least one a day; sometimes several! I couldn’t even believe it.
I had the most fulfilling lunch with a colleague who I never had really talked to before. He is Jewish, and he initiated a discussion about my faith, and we had the best talk. So good, in fact, that he went from being a guy whose name I knew to someone who I count as a friend in just one week.
I had an incredibly enlightening fellowship time with other believers at work — part of a semi-monthly get together we do.
I got to be a part of and directly witness God working in the lives of three women in our fellowship. It was amazing and so rewarding.
I started a workshop at my day job on how to read the Bible and EIGHT people came. Unbelievable. One was the Jewish colleague. And another was a woman who said this was a direct and immediate answer to a heart-felt prayer of hers – and that I had “no idea” how amazing my timing was and that she had never seen God answer a prayer so powerfully and so immediately as she did through me and this workshop.
Another friend sent an incredibly encouraging book to me “just because.”
I came across some organizations/ideas for our ministry to the poor, orphaned, and captive that were exciting, attainable, and right in our backyard — working with the homeless! On top of that, Niki received a “random” email from an initiative in DC for the homeless asking if we would partner with them. Now, that’s direction! And I received a newsletter in the mail about specific needs in a new program to the orphaned and poor in … Ethiopia! Can you even believe it? I started to cry –
AND, I had an incredibly illuminating and inspirational conversation with a woman in my home state who started and funds an orphanage in Ethiopia and is involved in other initiatives there. She had a LOT of ideas for ways we can make a meaningful difference for the poor and orphaned in Ethiopia.
[almost done with the box of chocolates]
The conversation with the loved one went better than I ever imagined and was all I asked for – even down to specific requests I made to God – if he was listening.
After we prayed, my friend had another EKG run, and this one showed huge changes – all the damage evident in the first EKG taken just hours before was now gone. She did not have a heart attack, could go home, and it was a miracle.
This same friend and I talked two more times this week as she was experiencing bad health problems. Both times, she was healed. And one time, she physically felt the healing occurring as I was praying for her. Now that’s crazy confirmation of a healing gift!
And we made leaps and bounds of progress in our adoption paperwork this week! I think we might actually finish compiling documents for our final application next week!
And I had such an incredible lunch with a dear-friend-in-the-making. I left feeling encouraged, changed, inspired, and so incredibly grateful for God’s providence in bringing her into my life.
Then I got to go out with a friend who always lifts me up and is a joy to be with. We had a wonderful time – with all of our kids – going to see Wall-E and getting ice cream. It was so fun, and such a good way to spend a Friday night.
And I JUST found out that the landlord of the space we love has decided to pursue a lease with us rather than the other possible tenant.
I started crying. Why did I ever doubt? Why the faithlessness? This has been the most amazing week, and I don’t even know where to begin praising Him for all He has done.