As the brethren of our Church in Alabama prayed over my husband and I at his deacon ordination in the summer of 2013, the one word I prayed earnestly for was humility. Little did I know God was about to answer this heartfelt prayer…
In the summer of 2014 we CAME to California “to help” and we beCAME humbled.
I remember the day I first felt the conviction to move to California to serve my family in the name of Jesus Christ.
It was the Spring of 2014. I had flown to California to help the woman who nurtured and cared for me all my life–my Grandma.
She had suffered through her third stroke and needed extra help because she had fallen and injured her foot. During this season of our lives my husband and I were planning a mission trip to Guatemala. We felt the ‘next step’ of our spiritual journey was to be missionaries.
When I shared about the mission trip with my Grandma she told me the ladies that helped her in the rehabilitation center were from Guatemala. I thought it was interesting that I was going to help strangers in Guatemala, and strangers from Guatemala were coming to help my Grandma.
I felt convicted that I was ‘willing’ to sell our stuff and go to another Country to serve and share the Gospel, but my heart hesitated when it came to my own family. I had sang the song, “All I have is Christ” many times and told God I would go anywhere and do anything and yet I felt I was being tested.
You may understand when I tell you, it’s hard to serve your family. I think it’s because we tend to be offended more easily since we are so close to them, and we want to please them.
That morning as I was reading the Bible, God asked if I was willing to be a ‘vessel of mercy and grace’ for my family. If I would be willing to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.” I wept, and surrendered. I told God I can’t, but I know with Him, all things are possible.
I ‘threw a fleece’ out and asked God, if this conviction is from Him, He would ‘move’ my husband. In the past my husband had said he would NEVER move to California. I didn’t want to be the one to ‘convince’ him of anything, but I knew if this was God will He would ‘convict’ him.
In the sermon that morning God confirmed through His Word this conviction was indeed from Him.
What God did next is amazing…less than an hour of getting out of Church during my visit in California my husband calls me from Alabama and tells me he was moved and convicted by the sermon and after praying he knew where our next assignment would be.
I thought he was going to say drilling water wells in Africa. He had just met with a missionary about it and was heart broken about the lack of clean water. I braced myself and asked,
“What do you mean ‘there'”
My heart raced and so did the time.
We had already started downsizing and having Garage sales in the summer of 2013 but in the span of five months we had a total of 8 Garage sales/consignments, many donations and trips to the dumpster as we prepared for the cross-country move. The pursuit of sanctification was evident as I was confronted with my flesh during the garage sales. I never saw myself so sentimental, stingy and selfish with my stuff. Gently God began to
work on my heart and help me to let go of stuff.
The pursuit of sanctification continued in California as we pursued peace while our motives and intentions were scrutinized. In fairness, I understand. It’s hard to believe a family would uproot from a place they love to serve in a place they’re unsure of—but time and testing would reveal motives and that is how God is glorified.
We moved from our spacious four bedroom home to my Grandma’s much smaller three bedroom home. This was supposed to be temporary as we searched for a local place to live so we can help our family care for my Grandma while giving her personal space.
What we did not realize was how long it would take to find a job for my husband. We also did not realize the work God was doing in him to ensure he knew his identity was not in a job title, or how much or little he made but in Christ. We thought we ‘learned’ this lesson but we were about to learn this lesson again, again, and again and we continue to learn this lesson.
I watched my husband burn in God’s refining fire of sanctification. He was willing to do whatever it took to provide for his family. He walked miles knocking on 90+ doors marketing for a construction company, he worked in the heat of the day digging water wells in central California being away from his family and the fellowship of the Church. He had many lonely days, clinging to Christ and yet yearning for fellowship that comes in Christ with the Church. He endured a hernia and was on disability as he waited months for surgery.
We had many days of spiritual depression caused by our disobedience and doubt. We cried, fought, and even conspired to run away from the fiery furnace…but we didn’t run away. I’d like to say we didn’t run away because of our faith, but the truth is we couldn’t. There was no money to go anywhere so we stayed…it wasn’t until we fully surrendered to the calling here in California that things began to change for us. In less than a week, Billy was offered a job as a recruiter at a Security Firm allowing him to work closer to home and be back with the body of Christ.
Though we have made many great memories in California it has NOT been easy. It was hard to leave our kindred friendships in Alabama and be the ‘new’ family in an established community. It was hard to not have a ‘reputation.’ It was hard to lose my sentimental stuff. But what has made it most difficult was seeing our rebellious and prideful hearts. To see our depravity.
I have come to the place to choose to look at my depravity and humble myself….I see this is a daily exercise of dying to self. I must daily address the defensiveness and rebellion in my heart. Living with family can be difficult because there’s no opportunity for false pretenses. It was my gracious Aunt that gave me wise counsel.
“Let it go…”
“Let go, the need to be right….”
“Let go the need to defend yourself…”
She was guiding me back to the path of humility reminding me of the way to access grace as shared in 1 Peter 5:5-6:
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time….”
Praise God for His grace, strength and power that comes through humility. God used my family to test us. To reveal what is in our hearts, and show us areas not yet surrendered to Him. We had a choice- to deny our sin, or confess and repent of it.
Our flesh had been ‘peeking out’ in areas we had not realized still existed. We were continually humbled. We saw our tendency to focus on the environmental factors, circumstances or the behavior of others and blame them for stirring up our anger. The fruit of the Spirit and flesh are evident.
The truth is, circumstances and people only reveal what is in the heart. If we say they are tempting our flesh, then we are acknowledging there is flesh to be tempted, and as a Christians we should see this ‘temptation’ as an opportunity of refinement, to die to self, and be more like Christ, to trim the fat and rid the flesh, for us to decrease and Christ to increase. This is good but it doesn’t feel good (Hebrews 12).
There has been much for us to confess and repent. The circumstances of being around my family have revealed how prideful and self righteous we can still be, wanting to be right and defend ourselves. We can be very defensive and try to prove our intentions. We are learning intentions are truly revealed by God in His timing and that’s for Him to reveal to others. We are to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth as we abide and obey Him keeping our eyes fixed on Christ.
We know we must abide in Christ, walking in continual confession, repentance towards God and faith in The Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit will write these Scriptures on our hearts.
There’s unity in humility. When I began to humble myself, not only was I able to receive God’s grace, but I was able to see the hearts of my family. I began to have compassion for them.
Genuine compassion is birthed out of experiencing the lives of others. That’s what Jesus did. He humbled Himself:
“…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and become obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross.” Philippians 2:7-8
We came to California to help and we beCAME humbled.
We thought our next ‘assignment’ was going to be a missionaries to a far off land. We have come to understand and appreciate the Truth that “Man plans, but the LORD directs his steps.” With the counsel and teaching of our current Church, we are continuing to mature as disciples and realize our wrong thinking about missions. We are always on mission,and it begins in being faithful wherever you are. The ministry of reconciliation is a calling we all have as Christians, and yet it is only done in God’s strength and power. We have been humbled to KNOW we will be learning for the rest of our lives and never ‘arriving’ until Christ returns. We have also have learned what it means to have ‘A Biblical Theology of Work.’ This has been a liberating truth full of grace!
Recently, my husband was blessed with a job that allows him to work from any location. Since our house in Alabama never sold, we have decided it is better stewardship of our entrusted resources to move back to Alabama. We are excited and thankful for the opportunity to rejoin the fellowship of believers that have invested much teaching, prayer and encouragement to our family even while in California. They are watching us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and we are returning one humbled family.
My Grandma will continue to be loved and cared for by her children and grandchildren in the local area. Though my heart is torn and sad to leave her, I know she is not alone and she does not need another Savior because she already has One–His name is Jesus Christ.
We have made many mistakes, and I know I did much in my own strength than I should have. Many apologies flowed out of our hearts and mouths, and an abundance of tears were shed. But by God’s grace, we pursued peace, and we pursued sanctification.
We pray the Lord was seen.
Since making the decision to move back, we have been given the opportunity to serve in a ministry in Alabama that is seeking peacemakers, people that pursue peace and sanctification. I can see God has used this testing and refining time in California to prepare us for this ‘next assignment’ and we go knowing apart from Christ we can do nothing.
Pray we pursue peace.
Pray we pursue sanctification.
Pray others see The Lord Jesus.
“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see The Lord.” Hebrews 12:14