After touring Israel and the mission trip to Guatemala, my heart remained connected to Israel. I wanted to return. Little did I know the answer to my prayers would bring warfare and breaking.
In November 2000, I wrote out my wants to God. “‘Boker Tov’ (Good morning) Father. I don’t know if it is emotions or You, but my heart lingers in Israel and a longing to return as a volunteer. I want to meet the people—not particularly interested in seeing more sights.
Lord, I am prompted to fill out the forms and apply for a Spring volunteer position with Bridges for Peace. Lord, I ask for confirmation of Your will. I ask for the timing. I ask for Your favor. I ask of the leading of Your Spirit as I fill out the forms, as they are sent and processed, and as decisions made. Lord, lead me and watch over every detail. Father, I will need health, my family’s support, and safe, affordable housing. I will also need money for food and necessities, and affordable plane flights. Father if this is Your will, I pray You will help me prepare, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Shortly after that, I sent for the application. When the application arrived, I started reading it over and got cold feet because of the expense. In the natural, I wondered how I’d have the money to go. My pledges needed to continue for Guatemala as well.
I prayed and asked God to speak. With eyes closed, I opened my Bible. Luke 6:38, was the first verse I saw when I opened my eyes.
“Give, and it will be given to you; good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over will they pour into your bosom. For with the measure you deal out, it will be measured back to you.”
“God, You are wonderful,” I said. “Thank You for Your Word that brings courage to press on in following You. I will continue to give and to trust You for provision.”
Journal entry from December 12, 2000:
“My King, I come before You in surrender. I await Your orders. Speak Lord for Your servant hears. It’s all about You Jesus. I don’t want to be led by emotions or logic I want to follow You.”
“My call, My call, My call upon your life is to teach. Go ye into all the nations…”
“Go then and make disciples (mentoring?) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold I am with you all the days—perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion to the very close and consummation of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 Amplified
Amen—so be it. Am I to go ahead and fill out the papers for Israel?
“Yes—I will set your times and seasons. This is a step of faith to put it in motion. Let Me show you My will.”
Lord, I’m worried about the money. I don’t want to deplete my ability to give to Guatemala and other places.
“Whose money is it?”
Yes Lord, of course, it is Yours. Lord show me where You want it to go and help me trust You to provide according to Your will. Take my heart and my life and mold it to Your purpose.
Help me know how to fill out the application. Hearing, “It doesn’t matter what you write, I will set your times and season. I will put you there in the capacity I want you to be when I choose. Fill it out and send it. Let Me have it.”
Okay, Father. Sitting here and my eyes fall on a brochure I picked up Sunday—“Give more than a gift—GIVE YOURSELF.” “Go ye,” is what I’m hearing. Lord, I want Your timing. I entrust my life and marriage and family to You.
I filled out the application and mailed it in. It was in His hands now.
On January 20, 2001, I received a letter from Bridges for Peace. It was possible I would be returning to Israel in as soon as two months or less. A new wave of sobriety and excitement washed over me as I was face to face with this reality.
I picked up my journal and wrote, “It is Your call Lord. This is Your mission. You are the One Who orders my steps and sets my seasons. I rejoice in knowing that You are in charge. I entrust to You every detail and look forward with joy.
My excitement and anticipation to go grew, but, Mike was quiet. Going on a tour was one thing, but five weeks was another matter. His silence registered disapproval, but he didn’t say anything.
By March 6th, my plans and reservations were in place. The next morning I spent time with God. Here are some of the journal entries for that day:
I will be flying out on March 26th and coming home on May 1st. Five weeks in Your Land, Father, I am blessed. Still, there are so many questions about going. I am feeling unprepared. Father, lead me in what is needed.
“Mary Ellen, My daughter, I love you. You are the apple of My eye. No fear. Your Shepherd will lead and protect you, and He will guard your flocks while you venture with Him to other sheep. Israel is unfolding like a beautiful rose. While the news is full of terror and heartache, you will have the opportunity to drink in the fresh perfume of people submitting to God. Stay alert, and you will experience with all your senses what I am doing. ‘Much Afraid’ learned how to scale the heights and you are about to do the same. You will not be the same when you return. You will be in strength. You will have the fragrance of Your Shepherd upon you, because of His nearness to you while you are there.”
(‘Much Afraid’ is the main character from the book, “Hind’s Feet In High Places,” by Hannah Hurnard. It is one of my classic favorites. Much Afraid is a crippled deer the Good Shepherd is calling to the high places.)
On the day of departure, I got up with Mike at 4:00 to see him off to work. “Have fun. Call me when you get there,” he said. Then he was out the door.
A friend from church drove me to the airport. Several other friends met me there. I was grateful to see them.
Mikki, a young girl who had been on the mission in Guatemala when I went there, came and handed me a beautiful card. In it, she wrote out this scripture from Habakkuk 2:2-3 Amplified Version
“And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day.”
I read it and cried. Later on in the plane, I wrote it out in my journal. This was my prayer: Lord, this word reignites my faith for Mike and I. I am still waiting earnestly for the word You gave me in 1992. Only by Your Spirit Lord. Only in Your timing, will we be one. I wait on You.
The other scripture Mikki wrote was Romans 4:18 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him…”
I opened my Amplified and continued in verses 20-21. “ No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.”
“Father,” I prayed. “I am so blessed to have women of faith and love standing with me. Thank You for heavenly relationships. Help me to continue to stand in faith for Your promises and glorify You with every breath of my life.”
April 5, 2001 – I’ve been here a week but there is little contact with Mike. The time differences and his work schedule make phone calls difficult to connect. On my end, computer connection is unreliable. Emails are slow in sending or arriving. When I do get something from Mike, it is two sentences about his day. Being on the computer is not his happy place, so, I’m trying not to be upset, but my concerns are growing. Father, please help Mike, our marriage, and family.
The next day, I prayed again, asking God for help. Father, I need Your word on what is going on here.
He answered, “Mike is lonely. He doesn’t know how to express it except in anger. He wants you to have a good time, so he is withholding the angry words.” (This must be the reason for so few words, I reasoned.) “I am in charge. Fear not. Let Me work My work in him even as I work My work in you. My hand is not shortened that I cannot save. Trust him to Me. Lean on Me for wisdom and words. I will lead you. Continue to express your love to him and let Me deal with his heart.”
My days as a volunteer were full from dawn to dusk and sometimes into the night. I was walking and shopping for supplies, praying and worshiping with the people of Israel. I loved the mix of cultures and colors. The city life with its energy and variety, new food, new flowers, birds and sounds—It was exhilarating. I loved my roommates. One was from Texas and the other from Japan. All this was going on, yet, under it all, my heart continued to weigh heavy with home.
April 11, 2001: Again I wrote out the cries of my heart. “Lord show me Your will for this day. Order my steps. I miss my husband’s hugs and his smile. Lord, fill that empty place. Bless him too. Be his companion. Minister life to his heart and spirit. We are crossing into unknown waters. We’ve never been apart for longer than fifteen days. Today is day sixteen. Father, keep us from evil and fill us with Your Spirit. Keep us one with each other and You. Surprise him with Your love, Lord.”
When I got home in May, I was more excited to see Mike than he was to see me. He hugged me and gave me a kiss, but I knew his heart wasn’t in it.
As the days progressed, he didn’t ask questions about my time there. He didn’t show interest in seeing the pictures or hearing the stories. I’d sent him and others daily updates while I was in Israel, so, I guessed he didn’t feel the need for more information.
At the end of July, Mike left for a planned trip to California to see his family. One day into the journey, He called me from a motel. I’ve forgotten the conversation leading to this comment. But later I logged these words into my journal:
“Mike’s comment on the phone cut to the quick. ‘Why should I come home?’ He asked. You don’t want me to come home.’”
(He was repeating a comment I made over half of our marriage ago about disliking him coming home early from a trip.)
“He is still holding this up to me as truth. God, You know why I said it then.”
“The kids and I had the freedom to do some things that Mike doesn’t enjoy doing. Often I took advantage of his time away to surprise him. I took on projects to bless him—like the time I painted and redecorated our bedroom. When he got home early, those activities and projects were cut short. I was wrong in saying it, to begin with, Lord, but today the feelings are different. Please help us. Help us get unstuck from the past and move on in love. Help.”
Life continued, as it does, and little changed. Our relationship was mechanical and lukewarm at best.
When I got back from Israel, I had applied for temp work with a local agency. I wanted to return to Israel more than ever now, but knew I’d need to get the money somehow. One of the temp jobs was with J.C. Penney’s. There was an opening for a full-time stock person in the Men’s Department. I applied for it in September and got the job. I’d be able to save the money quicker and was happy about the possibility of returning to Israel.
In mid-October, Mike came into the living room and sat down across from me. “I need to talk to you,” he said.
My stomach tightened. By the look on Mike’s face, I knew he had something serious to say.
“When will you have enough money to return to Israel?” he asked.
“Probably next month,” I said. “I could this month if I felt I am to go. Why? How do you feel about me returning?” I asked. I needed to know.
That question released a gate and words tumbled out like raging water over a spillway.
“I don’t care when you go. It doesn’t matter to me,” he said.
“Well, it does matter, because the last time I went, our relationship suffered.”
“What were the indications?” he asked.
I whispered a prayer and continued. “In the five weeks I was gone, you never once told me you missed me or loved me.”
“I didn’t miss you, and I’m not going to say I love you unless I’m in love with you and I’m not.” He said without even pausing to breathe. “I love you like a sister, but I’m no longer in love with you. When you tell me, ‘I love you,’ it makes me mad because I know you don’t.”
Beyond the words, piercing like arrows into my heart, I saw the enemy. The vindictive, cold stare he gave me, watching to see my response.
Mike paused, looking down at his feet, clasping and unclasping his hands in in front of him. I sensed that he too was praying or measuring what he was to say next.
“The first of this year, every time I approached you physically, you pushed me away.”
“I don’t ever remember doing that.” I countered.
“That’s the thing. You aren’t aware of it. It is so natural for you. You’re doing it without thinking.” Again, he paused.
“For years, you refused to go to work and then this year, when you got some money, you sent it to bless someone else. I had to work two days overtime to fix your car.” He sat back, empty of more to say.
All I could do was cry. I cried and cried and cried. Bottled up hurt splattered everywhere. Would this marriage ever be whole? Where was the oneness God promised? Would it ever manifest?
Later, in our bedroom, I lay on the bed and cried some more. “God, help Mike and I separate ourselves from the voice of the enemy and come to you in humility for Your healing. You are the only answer.”
The next day, as I came out of the grocery store, I looked at my license plate. 452GLG. Since the day I got the plate, I told people that the GLG meant Glory to God. But on this occasion, the 452 caught my attention. Then I heard “Isaiah 45:2.”
I grabbed my Bible off the seat of my car and read:
“I will go before you and level the mountains to make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut asunder the bars of iron.”
Hope was reborn for complete victory in our marriage.
That evening, when I got alone with God, He led me to Isaiah 25:1, 9. These verses spoke to my heart:
“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, even purposes planned of old [and fulfilled] in faithfulness and truth…
It shall be said in that day (the ultimate deliverance of Israel) ‘Behold our God, upon Whom we have waited and hoped, that He might save us. This is the Lord, we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'”
Yes, Lord, on You do I wait in expectation and hope to deliver and save us. On You and You alone, my soul rests.
The warfare was intense, but the victory was certain. God was with us, and His plan had not changed.
The next day I saw a bumper sticker, “If You’re going the wrong way, God permits U-turns.” I chuckled.
“Perfect timing God,” I said out loud. “Thank You for U-turns.”
~~ How About You? ~~
Does it look like you are in a hopeless situation, one that will never change? Has the enemy all but nailed the lid on your dreams? Again, I reassure you, God is able. Nothing stops Him from taking our messes and making miracles.
If you’ve been reading the chapters, you know that this is not a new message. When Jesus told His disciples to ‘abide in the vine’ to bear fruit, He wasn’t talking about a short-term experience. He was talking about abiding through the storms and the sunshine, through the drought and the plenty.
Hebrews 10:23 encourages us with these words, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Ask God to renew your faith in His faithfulness. He specializes in encouraging us and giving us strength to abide until… God bless you.