Hand In Hand

Twenty years ago our paths intersected somewhere the other side of Early Adulthood and there was something attractive in the easy, confident, way you walked. Even if I left a safe, observable distance between us for a bit. Eventually though, your persistence closed the gap and we stepped out together hand in hand for the first time. Hearts and fingers tentatively entwined and overlapping. Questioning, sideways glances through lowered lashes revealed a contrast of broad, safe shoulders, thick, strong forearms, but genuine, kind blue eyes and gentle smile. Always smiling. How does a girl resist a combination like that? A girl whose road up until that point had been a little dangerous and lonely?

We continued into a new territory, Together, me and you. Though I’ll admit my focus was most often on you, I was quite amazed at all the new things I could see. With you beside me. Shadows weren’t so long or menacing and you taught me to jump over puddles and sidestep hazards, smiling all the way. Before I knew it, I had almost stopped looking back over my shoulder and was learning to live facing forward.

This next leg of our journey, though, brought us into Commitment and required a quick jump over a broom. Youth shiny new and dressed in finery we glowed and holding hands, made the leap and the promise to stay the course together, forever.

Then, holding our forever hands with new joy and confidence we continued on. The whole world seemed to open up, spacious, in front of us. Oh, how beautiful those days were! The way the sun shone on Possibility in the distance and all sorts of lovely trails appeared as we checked the map. We spent hours wandering along the way, discussing and deciding which one to choose. There were a couple of rough patches (much easier to navigate together) in the beginning then, but nothing that slowed our progress.

Feeling like we could conquer, together, any path we chose, we went for what appeared the most challenging. We took a deep breath and passed the sign welcoming us to Parenthood. Things sure speed up a lot then. Sometimes I wondered why there wasn’t a better description on the map, or more warning signs at the entrance, for it sometimes felt like we’d picked the diamond run as amateurs. But for the most part, we navigated all of the obstacles “Dirty Diaper Ditch”, “Pacifier Pass”, “Sleepless Slide” and several “Trust Falls” together. The going was tough, but the rewards were great and we emerged on the other end with three precious people we’d been entrusted with for the rest of our journey. They’re loud, expensive and exhausting but we found they definitely make the trip more beautiful.

Checking our map again, we realized our choice to visit Parenthood limited our next steps briefly and the terrain looked slightly more winding and definitely slower going (as we’d come out with more baggage than we’d thought). Given our three extra hands to hold, we decided to stay awhile next to Family Forge and focused on raising up and providing for our pack of five. We settled in and made plans for “after”. For when they finished school, chose paths of their own and found someone to travel with. We worked, saved, spent, planned and enjoyed the time and things we amassed here.

Looking out across the hills one day we watched storms gather menacing in the distance. We’d been relatively protected from extreme conditions in that forge but as soon as I saw that horizon turn purple, the little hairs on my arms stood up and I glanced at you scared, waiting.

Giving my hand a quick squeeze, you didn’t smile, but turned away and set to work. This time though, the broad shoulders and work rough hands were no match for the approaching storm. We sold what we could, searched high and low for shelter, to no avail. As the forge flooded and filled we held on to each other for dear life and even though we still had each other, we were tossed so violently to and fro we could barely keep our heads above water. Terrified, my foot brushed up soft against an Anchor. I’d picked it up a few years before, had moved it into our home and had been studying it when time allowed as it seemed to lend a constant, quiet comfort. That moment though, it seemed to come alive and hold me fast. The storm didn’t cease it’s battering, but held firm by the Anchor I was able to once again grab your hand and those of the children.

The waters receded, we caught our breath, but we’d be forever changed. You kept on moving, working, fixing, taking on anything you could to restore what we’d had, to forget about the change of the landscape as if by sheer force of will you could move the mountains that had shifted directly onto our path. We often held hands in the quiet, without words. You with the weight of us on your shoulders and me with my gaze on those mountains. Exhausted, we had no idea what to do or which way to go next. Gone seemed our confidence and definitely our joy.

But during the clean up. Sifting through the debris, I kept resting on the Anchor. The workload for the days seemed unchanged, the mountains remained immovable, the horizon still tinged grey, but there was always the promises of the Anchor to hold me fast. In those promises I found the joy I thought carried away. And it remained, regardless of circumstances.

I’ll never forget the day you tripped on that Anchor. The way you wrestled with it for days.

You didn’t need the Anchor.

It was enough that it was in our house…right?

But that load you were carrying left you too worn out to fight it for any longer. Led to the Word to study the Anchor of our souls, the Creator of our mountains immovable and the love of our Savior, you invited Him in. Into your heart, into our home and into our marriage.

We’re working our way now, hand in hand, following Christ, around our mountains. Sometimes hand in hand is through tears. Sometimes it’s through laughter. But still together. Always thankful. Because now we both know our final destination (even if we don’t know what will happen in between), that we’re never alone, and our God is bigger than any mountain we come up against.

A couple weeks ago you insisted we jump over that broom hand in hand again. Renewing former promises and making a few more that are meant to last the rest of our journey together and acknowledging the source of the love that has, and will continue, to sustain us along the way.

Blessed to make this journey hand in hand, with you, Hubby.

Follow Me

I recently had the privilege of hearing a message from one of the founders of a relief organization called Tutapona. Eight years ago, Carl, his wife Julie, and their young family picked up and moved to Uganda to provide trauma and rehabilitation counseling to what would turn out to be thousands of refugees in the area. Carl provided an update of their progress, a victim’s heart wrenching story and the relief she found in the program, and plans for Tutapona‘s expansion to Iraq.

In a sanctuary full of Christians, Carl posed the question of how many Christians were truly followers of Christ. He maintains that to simply believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, is not enough. A true transformation of the heart will cause a transformation of your life. We are called to be disciples. This term implies active participation on our part. An outward reflection of our inner faith.


dis·ci·ple

(dĭ-sī′pəl)

n.

1.

a. One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.
b. An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.

Sharing several verses in which Jesus states “Follow Me”, it is pretty clear that Jesus intends us to, indeed, follow Him. (I searched on my own…and stopped counting at 19)

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Often, when processing a message, I am gifted with images that help make sense of, and usher important information to be stored and filed in the orderliness of my long term memory. Over the past few days, I have a clear picture of a classroom full of Christians. All have professed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus silently enters the room and speaks two words.

Follow Me.

That’s it.

Now, there is a person in the front, center. Let’s call her A+Disciple. Her hand wildly waving, squirming in her chair, she’s practically shouting, “Ooh, Ooh, Pick me! Pick Me!”. The Christians in the back are mulling things over. I’m sitting in the middle, off to the left, unobtrusively hiding behind someone taller than I am. I take a couple of deep, bracing, breaths. You know the kind; in through the nose, out through the mouth. And resolutely raise my hand.

If I were to “unpack” my reserved response, I believe it’s not necessarily fear that has me mentally preparing myself. I think it has more to do with the seriousness of the invitation. The knowledge and respect of what this commitment requires. There’s a (not so nice) part of me that wonders if A+Disciple truly appreciates the gravity of what she’s signing up for. At the same time, noticing her unreserved joy at the offer makes me wonder what I am lacking in faith that makes me so somber at the thought of following Him through anymore valleys that I sometimes can’t hold onto the joy of the promise of my final destination?

(This is when I’m reminded of Julie. Bless her beautiful, honest, Christ filled,heart for sharing her lack of joy when first called to uproot her family from a place they’d grown to love and follow Jesus to Iraq. Was she willing to follow wherever He led her? Absolutely. But even she had a moment where she raised her hand without chair squirming, arm waving, JOY. I also like to think maybe she will be saving a seat for me next to her on the bus?)

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A+Disciple is skipping to the bus while I am mentally “packing”. Repeating comforting scripture and pondering how many toothbrushes I should bring? After all, God seems to keep His itinerary pretty close to His chest. Now, A+Disciple is, of course, already on the bus, in the front seat, not so patiently waiting for the journey to begin. I see the loving smile Jesus welcomes her with and wonder if I’m worthy of the same reception. After all, I’m not exactly skipping in line, but putting one foot resolutely in front of the other while holding onto the promises written on my heart.

But He does.

He smiles at me with love and understanding. The same invitation. The same reception. Accepting me as I am, where I am.

Follow me.

Okay.

And those Christians now sitting, watching from the curb? He smiles at them with love too. Patiently waiting for them to pick up their cross, and follow Him too.

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The disciples on the bus are surely in for hair pin turns, low valleys, some rough roads (after all, the road less traveled is bound to be bumpy) and the most beautiful destination. Sitting in the middle, staring at Jesus, I find the JOY. When I’m focused on Him, and not what’s coming up ahead, I find the joy in the knowledge that not only has He made a way for me, but He’ll be with me through the whole journey.

So where are you on your discipleship journey? Are you dancing with joy ready to leap into anything He calls you to? Are you sitting, prayerfully waiting for instruction? Or are you still sitting on the curb deciding if you really need to pick up your cross and follow Him?

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UPDATE:

If you are already on “the bus”, are daring to be a Disciple, please take a moment to view the following video and prayerfully consider supporting the ministry of Tutapona either through prayer or a financial gift and help many more to follow Jesus. ❤