“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes it is a tree of life”
I found myself stuck next to a grumpy older man, wedged into the window seat because somehow I had forgotten to actually choose my seats on my flight down to San Jose. Also, it was at the front of the section, so I couldn’t have my bag with me, it had to be up in the overhead bin. So, a 4 hour flight with my cell phone and time to think.
Scrolling through playlists, through songs that have truly been my anthems and the themes of my life for the last decade, I came to this place of truly marveling at the moment I am now in.
Hope has been deferred in my heart for many years. Longer than many know, actually. Not just in the last 18 months of support raising and preparation for this move. Not just in the past 3.5 years of recovery from the trauma of Africa. I think the desires of my heart have been laid bare before the Lord for about 12 years now, when I was 19 and returned from my time with YWAM.
Mom says she knew from the time I was 6 that I was going to serve in some ministry, that I was going to leave our country and live differently. I had the word “GO” imprinted on my heart from the time I was 15, and the longing truly started then. At 18 I did go, I went to New Zealand, Thailand, Spain, Brazil, all with the hope of being a bearer of light. And then for a long season, the word became “Stay, but you will GO someday.” So I stayed. I went to college, twice, both times with the vision of using my learned skills on the mission field in some way. When I was in my early 20’s, I had a degree in music and was about to work toward another in photography, I had no idea how God would use these things in ministry. I knew they were how He wired me, I knew they were what I should do, but I had no idea how the story would go.
At 18, my dear Molly friend introduced me to the book that has become the cry of my heart for nearly half my life now. Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, have you read it? It is an allegory of Much-Afraid, and her transformation from a tiny trembling girl to one who can go to the High Places in the Kingdom of Love with the Good Shepherd. OH, this book is my life. I think I have read it about 20 times now, and given it away several too. Just as Much Afraid, I have spent years and years on the “Shores of Loneliness” and taken many (literal as well as figurative) “Detours through the Desert” (these are titles of chapters). She learns about the flowers of “Acceptance with Joy”, and “Bearing the Cost”, and so have I—the laying down of my own desires, my own longings and saying to the King of my heart “Behold me, I am thy little handmaiden, acceptance with joy! I will go where you lead me, and stay when you ask me.”
My heart has been for the nations as long as I can remember. It has never really been about the traveling itself, but just the seeing bits of the greater story of what God is doing. This longing, this ache, has been my constant companion for over half of my life. The going overseas for a season, and then remaining, the staying put for a far longer one; the training and schooling, and most of all waiting and surrendering, it is all I seem to know. The false start of Africa, the going there thinking this was the time of fulfillment of my heart’s desire only to be hurt so deeply by someone’s selfishness…hope deferred makes the heart sick. The years in Alaska, tucked away safely for the King to do healing work and knit my heart together with an incredible community, such sweet mercies in the midst of being heartsick. And then these last 18 months of having the words “Costa Rica” in my head and heart and on my lips…the always talking about it in the future tense. The preparation, the LONG transition. I have grown to rather despise that word, transition. The waiting, the surrendering even in that. The hoping to arrive last Christmas, and then this spring.
But now, now I am here. All of that is suddenly behind me and the dreams are put in front of me as realities. What does a person do with that? I would compare it to the girl who has dreamed of marriage and children since childhood…after the day of the wedding, then what? What do you do once the dream is reality?
Yesterday I sat on a plane, scrolling through my anthems and the songs that have both comforted and expressed the deep soul desires for these long years. I marveled. How perfect is our God’s timing? How amazing are His ways? One of my favorite passages from Hind’s Feet says,
“Nothing my Father and I have made is ever wasted,” the Shepherd said quietly, “and the little wild flowers have a wonderful lesson to teach. They offer themselves so sweetly and confidently and willingly, even if it seems that there is no one to appreciate them. Just as though they sang a joyous little song to themselves, that it is so happy to love, even though one is not loved in return. “I must tell you a great truth, Much-Afraid, which only the few understand. All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at. Every inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love. “Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love’s flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the King of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends. Some of my servants have indeed won great visible victories and are rightly loved and reverenced by other men, but always their greatest victories are like the wild flowers, those which no one knows about.”
Not one moment of all these years has been wasted. Not one hurt, not one longing unfulfilled has been without purpose. The way God has brought healing in some of my closest relationships, in some of the greatest hurts; the way God has prepared my heart, prepared my mother’s heart, planted me in multiple communities and given me family all over the place—none of it has been wasted or in vain. I look over the tapestry of what life has looked like since I was 15…not a moment wasted. Not a season, no relationship (or lack thereof), no job, no training…all of it is GOOD, and with purpose. It makes my heart overflow with gratitude to see how God has knit together hearts and friendships and community and ministries. Any moment before this one was not the right moment, but now it is, and I arrived with my cup full to overflowing.
This is a new season that I am stepping into. Brand new, as I stepped on the plane in Denver and exited the airport in Costa Rica. It’s all new. It’s a tree of life, and I hardly know how to feel about it or what to expect. Will my anthems change? Will the songs my heart sings change? My new roomie said over coffee this morning that perhaps I’ll get to make a new “playlist” that is the theme of my life now. I know this is so NOT about me, ministry and kingdom work is about our King and how the entire body participates. But this moment is such a massive relief to me, a giant exhale after half my life of longing, what else can I say? I have no idea what emotions will arise in these next days. All the things I thought I should feel in the past week never did come, I didn’t cry at any of the goodbyes at all. Perhaps it’s because I was so relieved that the word was finally “YES, GO!” that tears weren’t needed. I feel an overwhelming bubbling up of joy, and a song in my heart like Mary had,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-7)
I didn’t blog all through the summer because I felt like I had run out of things to say for a season. I was tired of talking about Costa Rica in the future tense, and truly, just writing the word “transition” was causing a gag reflex. But now I am here. Give me grace as I explore a new country, new culture, learn the heart language of the people I am surrounded by. If you have been living abroad for awhile, I know the excitement of newbies can get old, but let me live in it for now! I’M BACK to writing, and I have open hands and arms to whatever comes next in this story. Also, I really only have had a chance to take airport photos so far, so these photos are from a shoot I did last week with a friend–my last bits of the Colorado summer!