Sometimes God uses an experience we have, maybe a good one or maybe a bad one, to rock us deep down to the core. Much of my life has felt this way in recent months and years. And in most cases the experiences that have rocked me have been hard ones, maybe impossible ones.
But a few weeks ago, I got on a plane and flew half way around the world. I did so not knowing a single person I would encounter, eat with, live with, share a bathroom with. I did so going to a country where I did not speak the language.
It was this great step, maybe leap, of faith.
Only I didn't realize it when I signed up. I just wanted to get my feet on the African continent. I wanted to see and smell and taste and touch a place that was near where my children were born. I wanted to meet our Noonday Collection artisans. Look them in the eye and thank them for all of their beautiful work. And I wanted to experience God in a fresh way.
It wasn't until I was standing in the Brussels airport, surrounded by other Noonday Ambassadors, that I thought to be nervous. I didn't know these women. They didn't know me, know the struggles I have been battling through for the last few years, know how hard it can be for me to be around women because, well, because lots of women are mothers, and I am not. And I trapped myself in Rwanda for a week with these people?
I could feel my heart starting to retreat within myself, feel walls going up to keep me safe from feeling.
And I prayed: God, make me brave enough to be here, to experience what we do this week.
I was not prepared for God to answer in the way He did. The answer to so many of my prayers over the last almost four years has been, "Wait." or "Not yet." And I was afraid that He might say one of those things again.
But He didn't. And I wasn't ready.
I wasn't ready for the love-fest that is being surrounded by Noonday Ambassadors. I wasn't ready to be instantly loved and respected and included. I wasn't ready for women I had just met to hurt alongside me and offer me some of the most genuine encouragement I have ever received. I wasn't ready to be pulled in and loved without question.
They sat with me and inquired of me and encouraged me and related to me and shared their own stories with me. They pointed over and over again to evidence of God's grace and sovereignty in their own lives and helped me look for those same things in my own life. And God used them to make me brave.
And this experience? It rocked me to the core. It reminded me that God is here. Do you remember Jehovah Shammah? It was a whole week of God being my Jehovah Shammah. My week in Rwanda reminded me that, though I have felt lonely, God has never left me. That when I am too exhausted to take another step, He will carry me. That when I cannot speak another word, Jesus will intercede for me.
I am honored to be counted among these women. Honored to bear the same title they do. Honored to call them my friends.
But God did not stop there. He brought me to opportunity to meet our Rwandan artisans. Women who are smart and hardworking and kind and loving and courageous and beautiful in all the right ways. And He didn't just let me meet them; He let me know them, talk to them, love and be loved by them. He used these women in a powerful way in my life. He used them to make me brave.
Incredible things happen when women come together. Astounding things. Beautiful things. And I am so glad that God decided to make me a woman! I love women's hearts, their uncanny ability to love and encourage one another. And I want to keep doing it. I want to keep loving the women around me, listening to them and encouraging them.
I am so thankful that God made me brave during my week in Rwanda. And I hope and pray He will help me to stay brave and love well the people He puts in my life.
So from this, I am taking my newfound bravery and trying anew to fully and wholly put my life in God's hands. I am trying to trust Him entirely with the future of our family. Whatever that looks like. It is so hard to do, and (if I am totally honest with you) pretty scary, too. Children is the piece of my life to which I have held very tightly over the years. But I am trying to be brave and let go and give our future over to God entirely.
Deep breath. Here we go.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid;
do not be discouraged,
for the your God will be with you wherever you go.”