Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What do you mean it's 2014?

Hard to believe 2014 is here and it is already March! Wow, time certainly feels as if it starts to go by faster as I get older. I certainly had NO idea that I would update our blog for 2014 still in Birmingham! But here we are, still pressing on and being faithful. I have always been fully transparent about the struggles we face on this journey and want you to remember that we are NOT super spiritual heroes!!! I am just a sinner saved by grace, a daughter, a granddaughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, a coworker, a church member and so on. And believe it or not, I, from time to time, let satan get an upper hand!! What? Say it isn't so. Yes, it unfortunately is. I should start off by saying that I am just sharing my heart 100% and I am not alluding to anyone specific in this blog. I know that when people feel conviction they tend to take offense to it and try to make someone else out to be the bad guy! I am NOT the Holy Spirit and if you feel conviction about anything - that is the Holy Spirit and NOT me, so don't kill the messenger!

 It all started in December when I was just going about my business getting ready for the holidays with...Christmas decorations. Yes, you read that right. When I began to take out the decorations and start decorating it didn't take me long to realize that I needed to get rid of a lot of my beloved Christmas stuff. How could I? They all seemed to have so many memories and special moments all wrapped up in them--how could I part with them? That is when it began. That is when satan saw a crack in the door and stuck his whole foot in without me even knowing it! He had come to stay and brought his bag of lies, discouragement, and every trick to use against me! 

I am and always have been a cup half full girl. I don't usually find the negative or bad in things or people. I am the one finding the good, concentrating on that, and helping others to do the same. But the enemy used my own Christmas decorations to put doubt in my mind, get me to start looking at the negative side of things and people, and make me unable to see the good in anything, really. I struggled at being joyful in or about anything. The enemy got me into self pity party mode and I camped out there for a while! All I could do was think about all that we were giving up, how things in our family had changed, friends had walked away, and people didn't speak in the halls at church.  Co-workers and friends were talking about us behind our backs, no one was encouraging us, no one was asking us how they could be praying for us, no one understood us.  No one even seemed to care about how we were doing, that we had to leave our family behind, that we were having to sell almost every possession, and that my child had to make huge sacrifices that most people know nothing of--the list went on and on. By the time I had finished counting the cost on this journey, I was depressed!!! Seriously, if you were to write down every sacrifice on a piece of paper, it would be enough to make anybody go running as fast as they could, in a different direction, as far as they could (sound like anyone you know?). I guess you could say that I was in the belly of a fish and the fish had taken a sudden dive to depths unknown to me!

It only seemed to get worse as the month passed on. It became difficult to attend church; I totally felt like a stranger among those who I once felt so close to. I cried every time I gave stuff away and didn't really feel like celebrating Christmas. The feelings of isolation and loneliness were huge and my heart longed to be someone else, some where else! The enemy had me totally disgusted with our journey and the lack of God's people wanting to join Him in His work. There are only so many times that you can tell yourself and hear from others that God's timing is PERFECT!!! Well, from my seat it didn't feel perfect or look perfect. It looked like a train wreck to me. To have a family saying, "yes Lord, send us," and can't go doesn't exactly look perfect to me. Our heart hasn't been here in years; our hearts long to serve the Lord with our lives in a land where we don't speak the language, the culture is not ours, and the food looks and tastes different from what we are used to. Everything about this country is foreign to us, yet we long to be there and be out of our comfort zone! Most people fight to stay comfortable and not sacrifice and here we are begging and pleading to be moved from complacency and comfort and not being moved!!! This is crazy to me, and I don't understand, Lord. I felt as if the Lord was fighting against us instead of for us. I thought He isn't pleased with those who sit in comfortable pews each week doing nothing and being luke warm. I thought those people made him throw up!! So if this were true, then why? Why are we still here? 

So this is where I was at Christmas and it became even more difficult as we went into the week of New Years. There I was at church one Sunday morning and it hit me like a ton of bricks during the service: it is about to be 2014 and you are STILL here!!!! I lost all composure; I had to get up and leave the service  bawling my eyes out. Why, Lord? Why? What am I doing wrong? Are we that horrible of people that you are punishing us? What have I done to deserve this? Lord, please help me see what I am doing wrong! Desperate loud cries,  I remember even beating on the bathroom stall door as I cried out in anguish that day! I tried to compose myself and slip back into the service. One of my favorite godly, seasoned men of the church was waiting for me when I came out of the bathroom, put his arm around me and asked me what was wrong. In that moment, as I began to cry again and sob out, "I don't want to be here anymore!" He just lovingly held me and told me that he knew that. He said that it is obvious in our life actions that we are ready to serve no matter the cost and that is such an encouragement to him and his wife! What? Did I just hear him correctly? In my messy, broken, snot-nosed, teary life with all my why's and when's we are encouraging you and your wife? Little did I know how God would use those soft spoken words by a godly man that day to turn this fish around. Remember, I am in the belly of a fish and have not been spit up yet. 

I was so ready to go that day, that I walked very fast and sat in the car waiting on my family to come out so we could LEAVE!!! Since when did the Sexton family leave church first? NEVER!! I didn't want to be around anyone, talk to anyone, or see anyone. I knew people would ask if I was ok and what was wrong and I didn't trust myself enough in this moment not to answer, "Seriously, you have to ask? Hummm let's think about this!" Yep, that was my attitude about what "felt" to me as if no one cared. Tired of not being my normal self and feeling all this gamut of emotions from jealousy to loneliness, I wanted to change!!! During this whole time of sadness, I wanted to blog and write down what I was feeling and experiencing. But God--I love those "But God" phrases in the Bible--kept taking me to scripture when Jesus was silent. He didn't want me to write or share and I was kinda mad about that. But I am glad that I was obedient in it. I don't know about you, but when I need answers I look at what scripture says. That day the Lord took me to the Psalms and James. I didn't understand at the time, and I did complain to God about the depressing Psalms! And I am still in Psalms today, studying and gleaning God's nuggets to me each day. 

Each day satan would point out things to me; he had overtaken my thoughts and it happened without me even realizing it, friends!  I tried to put on smiles and push through the days, but daily satan would hit me with some lie, deception, and gut wrenching blows where it hurt the worst. Trust me, he knows what to use against you and what will hurt you the most. And he doesn't care. Babies I thought I wouldn't be here to see be born, had been born. Three kids that I didn't think I would be here to see come home with their forever families, came home. We saw most of our missionary friends leave for the field and unfortunately we saw some give up!! It was a daily struggle to see your friends hang out and do things together and your invitation never came. To see all the pictures on FB of their kids parties and your invitation never came. It really hurt more to get on FB, so I stayed off because I honestly couldn't take anymore hurt. I really started taking the fact that we were not gone yet personally. See, these are all feelings. I was basing my attitude, my joy, my happiness, and my future on how other people or circumstances were making me feel!!! I am not saying any of them are right or wrong, good or bad--they are just feelings. And we can not trust our feelings. My prayers had become focused on how I felt and others made me feel and wanting God to change them. However, this whole time God wanted me to see that it was me that needed changing. 

God took me to other scripture in His word that started cutting up the lies, transforming my thoughts, and changing me. He didn't want me to focus on the cost, but rather the privilege. He took me to scripture that showed me the waiting that others did. The Israelites, Noah, Hannah, Mary & Martha, the disciples, Jacob, Abraham & Sarah, Zechariah & Elizabeth, Joseph and so on and so on. I was left wondering why God was reminding me of those stories that I knew so well. See, every one of those stories had waiting in them, and what were they waiting on? God and His timing. When you read scripture you see that above all else Jesus wanted to be obedient and do His Father's will. More than how others treated Him, more than what others wanted Him to do or say, more than what He felt like doing (He did pray for the cup to pass from Him), more than what would make Him popular and accepted. More than how He felt, or how long it took.  More than ANYTHING He desired to do His Father's will and only that. While spending time with the Lord one morning, He used 6 words to pierce my heart. "My hour has not come yet" (John 2:4). Wait, read that again. Over and over with tear-filled eyes thanking the Lord for finally finding a bit of that joy again. It wasn't our hour either!!!! The next day was even better when He beat me over the head with 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. It is Paul's defense of his ministry and in there it talks about the standards of the world, the battle and the weapons we use and then, there it was…… " casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"... Wait, what did that just say? So I read it again and again and realized that I was the high thing that was exalting itself against the knowledge of God and had allowed my every thought to be captivated by the ENEMY!!! 

Wow, did I do some repenting that day. How could I allow this to happen, when did it happen? I doubted God's knowledge because of the timing I thought should have happened. Then I began to remember one by one those bible stories. Don't you think that the Israelites doubted their 40 years of wandering in the desert, Mary & Martha while their brother was dying, Abraham and Sarah on having a child and so on? So many great examples of waiting on the Lord. For Him to prepare everything that needed to be prepared before moving ahead, most of the time it was the people themselves that needed to be worked on. That is where I had found myself. The Lord used these two verses in powerful ways to cut to the chase I was on. And then He used two encounters at my office to help with the rest of my struggles. He used a patient that is a pastor to share 2 Timothy 4:9-18 with me and talk to me about what I was feeling. He suggested I read where Paul was abandoned by everyone, felt lonely, and was asking Timothy to hurry and get to him by winter so he wouldn't be alone. Paul the great Bible missionary felt lonely? Pastor Matthews said, "yes and he even calls them out by name those who had abandoned him and left him."He told me that day, "Sherri, the day your family shared you were leaving to do God's work in Mexico, a disconnect happened in everyones mind and they don't even have a clue." He shared with me that our human nature does this without us even knowing and so all this time people have been saying goodbye to us in their minds and hearts. Wow!! That is why we feel disconnected--we are! And it wasn't done intentionally. I couldn't wait to get home to my Bible that day and read the chapter he told me to read; it was awesome. 

"At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." 2 Timothy 4:16-18  That was it! God was rescuing me from the lion's (the enemy's) mouth, where he had me. God wanted me to realize that I can not depend on others to do the job of my Savior. He is my strength and my rescue. This is all part of our growing until it is our hour--more dependence on Him! More dependence on Him means that we share the gospel more effectively to ALL people and for His glory. A great check for me to remember this is NOT about me or my family or anything else. It is and always will be about God and His glory, His provision and His plan. Ouch! I was so upset with myself for allowing satan to take my thoughts captive and allowing the self pity, jealousy, loneliness and so forth to creep in. How could I, and how much harder will this be on the field? God help me to see the warning signs and indicators in the future; I don't want to live here again! 

The second encounter came when I met the mother of a patient that had over heard a conversation and wanted to speak to me. Thank you God for using her! She and her family are missionaries and have been for years (talk about a wealth of information). She was able to shed some light on my struggles in a great way. I shared with her my loneliness and feeling like we were being treated as if we were already gone. She totally knew what I was talking about. She explained to me that everything we are doing has a grieving process and as we are letting go of things and people are letting go of us, we have to grieve all of that. We didn't really know that we would or needed to. But she was so wonderful to share with me  frankly and honestly on how hard it is and how hard it will be when we come back to visit. See, everyone else will just continue on with their normal, nothing-much-has-changed life and our family will start this whole everything-is-new-and-everything-has-changed life and they can not relate to it. She was so sweet in sharing and giving me her contact information so that she could continue to pour into our family with information, encouragement, and questions. 

Even in my dark days and struggles, God was preparing others to speak truth to me that would encourage me and lift my spirits. He used His word to pierce the darkness of my heart and mind to change me in areas that I needed changing. I would love to tell you that after those moments everything just turned right back to grand and glorious. But since I had allowed the enemy to camp out and control my thoughts, I had to take everyone of them back! This was a thought by thought process each and every day. We all have learned so much over these dark few months and although I have learned a lot and grown a lot, I don't care to live there again!! But I am not so bold or naive enough to think that if it can happen once, that it can't happen again. So I have on the full armor of God and I am watching for his fiery darts! 

So when I was finally spit up on shore I realized that my blessings far out way my struggles, I should always focus on what I do have and not what I don't have. It can always be worse! And that you can miss out on other blessings and being a blessing if you allow yourself to exalt yourself against the knowledge of God. And even though we don't know "our hour" it's okay, we shall continue to walk by faith and not by sight. We will press on toward the prize and keep our eyes on Jesus. I ask that you forgive me for not remembering what a blessing each of you are to us and taking that for granted. And even if I stumble again (which I am sure I will) I will quickly repent and put my eyes back on the prize. I will allow God to captivate my every thought hourly. We are beyond blessed to have all of you in our life!!!
Thanks for keeping up with us and walking along side us on this long journey to a harvest in Mexico!

This is a song that we sang at our area meeting in New Mexico and it has been my life song for months now. Enjoy.