41. Wow. That is a big number. In some ways, I feel very 41. In others, I still feel like such a goofy kid. I still love to skip over to people when I greet them. I still like to scare people (especially my children) which makes my husband say I have a twisted sense of humor. And I still like grape soda.
But turning 41 has really made me stop and reflect over all God has done over the past year. My 40th year. When my friend, Greg, talks about processing mission trips, he says to think about 3 things. What did you see? What did you hear? And how did it make you feel? I've been pondering those questions about the past year and decided to write about them.
What did I see? Well, I think the first obvious answer is Africa. I saw Africa. And I saw Africa 3 times. If anyone would have ever told me that I would visit Africa one day I would have never believed it. Not because I didn't want to go but because I thought financially, it would never, ever be possible. But God provided and he allowed me to visit that beautiful continent and see things I'd never seen. Poverty, brokenness, beauty, pain, hope and Jesus in the eyes of beautiful children. I got to see a foreign land with the man I dearly love. I got to see another beautiful country, Uganda, with a dear friend. I got to see Africa through her eyes which made it all brand new again. Then I got to see Ethiopia again but with all new people and all new experiences. I am humbled and beyond blessed.
I also saw God move a mountain in the form of a phone call after we came home from Africa. It went something like this "John, would you be interested in coming to interview for a pastoral position at Grace?" A what??????????????? Only God could have made that possible. We dreamed. And we dreamed big. And we prayed even harder. But when God answered that prayer, we were blown away. And then to find out that his position would oversee marriage mentoring. Well, if you know our story, then you know that it could have only been God to arrange for such a thing to happen.
I've also seen my children growing into their own. They are developing their own unique ways about them and it's such a joy to watch them. But their growing has also caused me to see where I fall short as a parent. I'm starting to see where I need to be more intentional about parenting them and teaching them. That I need to be as doting on them as I would an orphan on the other side of the world. That I need to give them as much time and effort (if not more) than I'm willing to give to anything or anyone else.
What did I hear? I think the most profound thing I heard this past year was my mothers voice. I know it's with my mothers permission that I continue to write this but to say our relationship was strained for a very long time is an understatement. When we finally came to a place where our relationship felt healthy, God moved her. WHAT???? RIGHT NOW??? I'm just starting to like "us". It made no sense and I was not happy. At all. I was angry, frustrated, hurt and just knew she was making the wrong choice. Well, I was wrong. Her moving has been the best thing that could have ever happened to us. I can't explain it but I can say it's all very good. God is growing her in ways I could have never imagined and he's growing "us". I hear her now when she talks to me. I trust that God speaks to me through her. She is so supportive of all my craziness (ahem...aka Africa) and has provided me with godly wisdom that has been a huge blessing. And I heard words from her recently that I never thought I would hear "I submitted my application to go on my first mission trip". My Mom...at 61...is going on a mission trip. And I could not be more proud to be her daughter.
What did I feel? There have been so many feelings that have run through my heart this past year. I think the biggest feeling is disbelief. Has all this really happened this past year? What I feel most of the time is unworthy. I also feel blessed. Ridiculously blessed. We shouldn't be here. It doesn't add up. That's where God comes in. We can never add up and we don't belong here. It's only by God's grace that anything in our life is what it is.
I also feel a peace. When I returned from Ethiopia last year, I felt myself wanting to scramble. How will I get back? When will I get back? Oh God, please let me go back. Maybe I have a peace because I'm just plain tired. Maybe I have a peace because it's truly from God. Maybe it will only last a minute. But for now, I just feel peace. I feel like God is saying "it's ok to rest now".
So, what do I want for my birthday? I want for every person I know to embrace some aspect of orphan care. Pray, go, adopt, support. We can all do something...and we are all called to do something. James 1:27, Matthew 25:40...it's in black and white.
What does 41 hold? I have no idea. But I'm going to start with loving my family just a little bit more. Kissing that amazing husband of mine a few more times a day. I think the most important thing I need to learn is how to have an intimate relationship with the one who loves me most...God.