I was walking in new freedom, new strength, but the restoration of our marriage still seemed beyond reach. Trusting God to lead us, I pressed on with the path He’d set before me.
Two months after Oaks of Righteousness ended, I was in Israel. I’d answered the call for my second six-week volunteer assignment. They asked me to come and help in the Volunteer office again. The head of the department was coming to the U.S. for a conference, and they needed more hands to get all the work done.
Those six weeks were little like my first experience as a volunteer. Rather than living on site, for most of my stay, I house-sat at the apartment of the department head in Jerusalem. I loved walking the neighborhoods and seeing the day to day life of families. I was more than a mile from the office, so I had the option to walk or ride the bus to and from work.
At that time in Jerusalem, suicidal bombers were bombing buses. Sidewalk cafes and other crowded areas were also targets. My family and some of my friends were less than convinced that I needed to be in Jerusalem. But once again, God assured me that it was His call. So, I went.
Again, it would take a good-sized book to log in the events of those six weeks. Some day in the future, I may write it out. For now, I will tell you that knowing I was on God’s assignment gave me the grace to deal with some serious challenges.
The woman I went to Israel to assist was sick the day I arrived and never returned to work, while I was there. Instead, she went back to the states. The head of the volunteer office returned to Israel the day before I left. He was sick as well, so we never reconnected face to face.
It wasn’t anything like my first trip. There were greater office responsibilities. And, this time the city of Jerusalem was tense and anxious. The Jihad activities continued with bus and restaurant bombings. Since I was staying a distance from the office, I needed to daily decide whether I was going to walk or ride the bus. It became my practice to ask God each morning for His instruction. “The bus or by foot? Which will it be today, Lord?” By His leading, I remained safe, but the city was full of sorrow and tension. City buses full of school children, neighbors and friends were the targets. Many died and many more were injured.
This time I did get a bit more mail from Mike, but still no mention of him missing me. When it came time to return home, I didn’t have the same yearning to go back to Israel.
I came home and got back into the swing of daily life. I quit my job at Penney’s and prayed asking God to lead me in finding new employment.
In September, I celebrated my fifty-eighth birthday. The Feast of Tabernacles began that same night. As I went about my activities, I remembered the day I met Bob Jones in 1988. It was about this same time of year. Bob was talking about Tabernacles, and I mentioned to him the date of my birthday. He commented, “Yom Kippur fell on that same day this year.” At the time, I didn’t see the significance. But now, fourteen years later, I felt as if Yom Kippur – a day marked with repentance, had lasted all fourteen years. ‘Lord, are we finally entering a time of reconciliation? I sure hope so.’
Our intimacy was still rocky. Four days after my birthday, I was getting ready to head to Baja to visit my missionary friend Brandy Cook. But, as hard as I tried to focus on preparation to minister there, my marriage still held priority in my thinking.
I felt ill-equipped to minister with all that was going on in our lives. I sat down with Abba and wrote,
“Lord, I run to You, my Rock. Bind me with Your truth. Confine me with Your word. Fill me with Your wisdom and faithfulness, Lord. I run to You for shelter and an unshakeable foundation.
“Father, I don’t know how to pray. I’m trying to live life on too many levels at once. Help! God, how I need You, how we need You. Will this battle ever turn to victory?
“Show me my part. Make it clear. Write it bold. I need direction. I am willing to obey. Lead me.”
On September 25, a day before flying to San Diego and on to Baja, God answered my prayer, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
I knew I needed prayer before leaving, but especially prayer for our marriage. I went to my friend Karen’s house. Another friend was visiting, so they both prayed with me. At the end of praying, Karen turned to me and asked a question. “Is God asking you to do something that would speak love to your husband?”
“There’s only one thing that I haven’t already done. Return to Mike’s church and serve with him there.” I said. Everything in me cringed at this idea, but it was true. I’d tried everything.
“Well,” said Karen, “spend some time in prayer about this. Returning to his church may be your answer. I can see why you wouldn’t want to, because of the doctrine, and to be honest, I’d question it too. But it may be what God is asking.”
We hugged each other, and I left to pack for the trip.
In my suitcase went a book I’d checked out from the library. “Living Fearlessly,” by Sheila Walsh. Little did I know, it was what I needed to keep nudging me in God’s direction.
I jotted this line in my journal on the plane, “My greatest fear was losing the control I perceived I had over my life. Fear puts you in a holding pattern. You can’t move forward or backward.” Now I identified with this one hundred percent. If I said yes, to returning to Mike’s church, what more would be required?
Then another sentence jumped from the page. “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” Okay, I needed to chew on that one for a bit.
Getting away from home helped me to see how difficult it had been for Mike to relate to me. In Baja, I was with people who gave their lives 24/7 to ministry. While I wasn’t that involved at home, or at least didn’t see myself as such, I am sure that is how Mike perceived me.
As I sat looking out over the sea with my journal in my lap, I picked up my pen and wrote. “God thank You for removing some of the intensity so that I can focus on my season at hand. Lord, keep me in balance according to Your will. Help me yield without reserve to Your agenda and meet Your plan and purpose. More and more I’m hearing with growing crescendo the call to return to church with Mike. Lord, I need Your criteria. I need Your wisdom. I don’t want to ruin this up with running before You or running from You. Step by step, day by day, lead me, Lord.
Lord, I don’t know how to return and yet not embrace the doctrine and all that comes with it. You can’t be asking me to.
“No, I will lead you. I will show you. Day by day, hour by hour. Fear not, for I am with you.”
“Abba, You know, my pride is being tested in all this. I can already hear Mike saying, ‘I’m glad you finally saw the light. I was right all along.’ Help me keep my mouth shut and stay in love. Help me remember that my life no longer belongs to me. It is Yours. Thank You, Abba.”
When I returned to Missouri, I was more confident what my choice would be, but still wasn’t feeling secure in it. Then after church on Sunday, my friend Christi came up and gave me a big hug. I’d asked her to pray for me and my Baja trip, but she knew nothing about the decision I was considering.
“The last few weeks when I’ve prayed for you, I’ve had a strange feeling. It’s like you are being called to do something new,” said Christi, as she searched my eyes for answers. Looking down, she continued with hesitation. “The other thing I didn’t want to say was that we were going to have to tell you goodbye. Are you going somewhere?”
“We will talk later,” I said as I made a quick exit to my car.
On October eighth, we made a new beginning.
Mike came home in a grumpy mood from work. I said something to him that shouldn’t have registered a negative response, but it did. He went in to take a shower, and I prayed asking God for wisdom.
When he came in for supper, I pointed to a sign on the refrigerator. It was from Joyce Meyer Ministries, “Is Your Conscience Clear?”
“Sweetheart, my conscience is not clear,” I said. “I didn’t mean to upset you the minute you walked in the door. Please forgive me.”
“Work is very stressful right now,” he said, opening the refrigerator to grab the pitcher of ice water. He turned and walked to the cupboard for a glass. Then he turned and faced me. “Home life isn’t very rosy either,” he said and then went back to filling his glass.
“Mike, I’ve made a decision, and I want to tell you about it.” I could see tension rising in his face. I continued. “I have decided to go to your church and be with you every time you go. I’m doing this to honor you and to show you that I love you.” By now I am in tears and so is he. We hugged and held each other without any further words.
That night true intimacy began again in our marriage after a year of drought. Mike drifted into deep sleep, and I prayed. “Thank You, Lord. Thank You. We’ve taken the first step together. Help us fall in love all over again with each other and with You. Father, I don’t know what lies ahead, but, keep me on course. Give Mike grace for our marriage and his job. Give him hope and protect him from the enemy.
A new chapter began. This one was a solid step to restoration.
~~ How About You? ~~
Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t want to do? Has He given you many pieces of evidence that what you are hearing is Him? Well, you can continue marching around your mountain of trouble, or you can take the route He is showing you. If you take His way, it will be a shorter road to victory and freedom. He was opening a door for healing, and I needed to walk through it this time. We spent years in the desert after refusing His last offer.
In Deuteronomy 2:3 God speaks to Israel in the wilderness and says, “You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”
Psalm 25:4 is a great prayer to offer when we need direction:
“Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.”
Psalm 37:4-5 in the Amplified is an encouragement to trust in Him.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.”
I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I’ve had to remind myself of these truths out of Jeremiah many times.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”.
Maybe it’s time for you to ask Him and make a turn as well. His plans for you are GOOD.