Making U-Turns

The problem of getting lost is knowing when to turn around.

I know this because I am an expert at getting lost. I generally don’t drive anywhere new without making a U-turn or two or three.

When I first suspect that I’m lost (again), my heart races.  I’m stressed and emotional.  I snap off the radio and beg my kids to stop hitting each other over the head with books and whining about the fact that the two-year-old always takes their stuff.  And no, we can’t listen to Mickey Mouse just this moment because Mommy is in fact having a breakdown and needs silence.

When I finally realize that yes, I absolutely am lost (again), I perch forward in my seat, chest practically to the steering wheel and squint at the road signs.  I’ve scrolled down to my husband’s contact info on my phone, ready to call him the very second I finally give up and humbly confess that once again I have missed the turn or misunderstood the directions or misidentified the landmark.

It’s just so hard to know when to admit defeat and turn around.  I keep hoping that my destination is over the next hill, around the next bend in the road, at the next intersection, just one . . more . .. mile.  What if I turn around and I miss out because I just didn’t go far enough and gave up too soon?

But then, what if I keep driving, persistent and stubborn, and it’s wrong?  Maybe I missed the turn long ago and this is a perpetual waste of time and gas money.

Life with it’s uncertainty fills me sometimes with the same confusion and anxiety.

Is this God’s will or is that?  Now or later?

And then there’s when you pursue what seems to be God’s will, but eventually He stops you and turns you around.

I’ve been on my knees about this lately, praying for clarity and reassurance.  It was just over one year ago that my husband and I handed in our completed packet of papers to become foster parents.

Background checks, fingerprinting, proof of car insurance, the deed to our home, proof of rabies vaccinations for our cats, references, copies of our driving record: We had collected every document that described our lives down to the minutest detail.

We did this because we had confirmation after confirmation that this was what God wanted us to do.  It wasn’t part of our own plan for our family—not yet, anyway.  We thought we were at least a few more years away from fostering or adoption, but God had moved our hearts and we wanted to obey.

Just as we were on the very last step of this process, everything stopped.  Overwhelming workloads at the Department of Social Services, confusion, people quitting and others not being hired to replace them halted the entire process for us.

I called about once every week or two and left increasingly pushy messages. Whenever I spoke to an actual person, I was assured that the very next month they would call.

But they didn’t.

My husband and I agreed that continuing to call and call and call was likely to push ourselves right on out of God’s will. So, I prayed, “Dear Lord, if this is your plan, please let them call us.”

Nothing.

So, what does that mean?
Did we miss God’s will from the very beginning?
Was this all a mistake?
Did I somehow mess it up and ruin God’s plan for us?
Was it time for a U-Turn?

I can’t say that I’ve sorted through all of this completely.  I’m still confused about why God seemed to direct us this way and then stopped us in the end.

Yet, I’m wondering if He’s always more concerned about the journey than rushing to a destination.  Maybe His goal was to stir our hearts for future things, to interrupt my own family agenda, or to see how far obedience would take us.

Like Abraham, maybe laying down our Isaac was the plan all along, and as long as we were willing to obey, that was enough.

In Scripture, we are promised continually that God will direct and guide us:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
(Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)

And when I worry about messing it all up, Scripture reminds me that God’s plan will prevail, over all our insufficiencies, over every obstacle and inconvenience: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).

So, I return to prayer: “Lord, let your will be done in our lives.  I may whine about it.  It may be difficult.  But I do desire to walk in your way.”

Then I trust Him to lead.

Maybe the U-Turns are because we misheard Him or zoomed off in our own direction without seeking His opinion.

Maybe the U-Turns are actually part of His plans for us.

I’m reminded, though, that as long as we are wholeheartedly seeking after Him and truly willing to obey Him, we are never really lost.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take”
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Working Together

Had you seen me that day, you would have thought I discovered hidden pirate treasure or the Lost City of Atlantis.

Instead, it was a small dark blue suitcase sitting outside a local thrift store.

I spotted it from my car and parked in record time.  Power walking over to the store front, I darted my eyes side to side to make sure no one else had also seen this fabulous find and was determined to race me for it.

Once my hand was on the handle, I quickly inspected it, tried out the zipper, decided it was the most perfect little suitcase ever manufactured and carried it inside where I handed the cashier $2 so I could take it home.

Finding that suitcase made my day and it’s not because I’m packing for an overnight trip.

No, it’s because a friend of mine has a passion and she invited others to join in a mission with her.  So now I feel personally commissioned to locate and obtain small suitcases in good condition and when I’m on a mission, look out world!

I’m not the only one hunting for these bags either.  Others are doing the same thing.  And to think, yard sale season hasn’t even begun yet!

You can read all about Andrea’s passion here at her blog.

In her time as a foster mom, Andrea’s had three little ones come to her family with their belongings in trash bags.  It turns out, that’s “normal” for foster children.  They are uprooted from the only home and family they know, sent to live with strangers, and the few items that they own–their most precious possessions—are toted along with them in a bag meant for garbage.

It’s pretty hard to imagine any child feeling special, loved, and secure with that as their “normal.”

So, Andrea wants to change that and she asked us to join with her.  Her goal is to collect enough suitcases so that each child who comes through our local fostering agency can toss the garbage bag where it belongs—in the trash can—and have the dignity of carrying their belongings in real luggage.  She calls it Suitcase of Love.

Here’s what excites me.  I just started Kelly Minter’s study on Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break and it’s got Andrea’s project written all over it.  It’s God’s Word carried out in daily life.

Nehemiah had a passion, too.  After hearing from his brother about the ruinous state of the walls around their homeland of Jerusalem, Nehemiah was broken-hearted.  He entered a season of intense fasting and prayer that lasted for months.  During that time, he made calculations, charted plans, and considered possibilities.

With permission from King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah traveled back to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the walls surrounding the holy city.

We’re told that Nehemiah had come “to promote the welfare of the Israelites” and that “God had put it in (his) heart” to tend to the safety of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:10, 12, NIV).

God had given him this passion for his people.

In her study, Kelly Minter asks, “Who has God asked you to promote the welfare of?” and “What has God put it on your heart to do?”

For Andrea, it’s clear that her God-given passion is for foster children.  For Nehemiah, his divine passion was the safety of his people.

But God doesn’t give us these burning desires on behalf of others so that we can go it alone.  He doesn’t so much assign personal projects as He anoints leaders who will invite and encourage others to join them in the work.

Nehemiah could have tried to clear the rubble from the old walls, cut and placed new stones and cemented them into place all on his own.

He would have failed.

Instead, he rallied the people of God to work together to rebuild their city. Nehemiah chapter 3 is the story of what happens when people are unified for a cause.  It tells us exactly who was involved in the rebuilding project and at the end of almost every section we’re told who was working “next to him” (Nehemiah 3:2, 4, 7 . . . ).  Goldsmiths, merchants, town officials and temple servants learned new skills in the construction trade in order to get the job done.

That’s because God’s people work best when we’re working next to each other for the same goal.

Not only that, but Nehemiah 3 also encourages us to find ways not just to involve the community, friends, or churches in our projects, but to train up our kids in compassionate service, as well.

Nehemiah 3:12 says, “Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.”

It was Take Your Daughter To Community Work Day.

We can’t support every cause or solve every problem.  We can’t assist in every crisis or care for every need.  We’d never get anything accomplished if we tried to lend a hand to every good cause.

But when God breaks our heart on behalf of others, it’s His way of showing us where to work.

Then, instead of struggling on our own, we share that passion with those around us and maybe they pick up tools and stand next to us, rebuilding broken down walls together.

And we bring our kids alongside.  My daughter asked me last night, “What’s the suitcase for, Mom?”   I told her all about it.  So, now I’m not the only one hunting for luggage as I drive about town.

We’re doing it together.

You can read about Suitcase of Love here at Andrea’s blog.
You can find out more about Kelly Minter’s study, Nehemiah: A Heart That Breaks here.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King