Our Red Sea

Our first year was blissfully happy.

We lived in the teeniest farmhouse ever, with leaning doorways and squeaky wooden floors and an infestation of brown recluse spiders. The walls were anything but tight, and when the winter storms blew, my curtains swayed gently in the breeze that found its way through the cracks. Skunks moved in under our porch, and set up home under our master bedroom. Apparently, they had a fight one night, and we woke up coughing, our eyes stinging. Their marital squabble remained in our room for weeks. I scrubbed the ancient stained carpet, only to have more billows of odor fill the house.

We ate on a dime, and enjoyed the swing in the backyard, and sauntered down the lane to feed the landlord’s cows. Life was slow and steady and delightful. We had no money, except what Daniel carefully earned building houses, and we had no debt. We bought an older car from his parents and stretched a $20 bill as far as it could go at the grocery store. Our house was sparsely adorned with second-hand furniture, except for an occasional solid, Amish-crafted gift.

We were so poor, but so rich.
We were drunk on love, delighted with simplicity, grateful just to be together.

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But we had expected to be on the mission field soon. We even opted out of a wedding registry since we were sure we would be packing light and living long overseas. (Ask me now how I would do that differently 😀 ). We were, perhaps, ignorant, but we were earnest.

Finally, the call came.
“Would we go to Honduras to translate for an English-speaking doctor?”
Would we? How could we NOT?!? We were so excited.
And while both of us had lived in 3rd world countries before, and knew it wasn’t all a blissful, romantic prospect, we were thrilled. We were made for this. This was part of the story we had always expected.

As we packed up our few belongings, I remember telling Daniel,
“Somehow I feel like God is taking us down there to teach us, and not so much the Hondurans.”
He looked at me quietly, “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know; I just think God predominantly wants to work deep in our own hearts.”
He nodded.

Little did we know.
Little did we know that our intentions of living in Honduras for years would crumble, that God would ask us to lay down our aspirations and just be broken and needy.
Little did we know that God would allow us to walk through death and betrayal and deep grief while far from my family and our home church.
That we would come back less than two years later, to a church that had branched into several groups, to be with my family as we processed the loss of my brother, and my mother’s only son.

Little did we know that God would ask Daniel to lay down his dreams for medicine and for mission work in Africa and move back to the states.

Sometimes God writes a page in our story, knowing full well the upcoming twists, knowing we could not handle it if we could see it.
He leads us one season at a time, giving dreams and sometimes taking them.

Sometimes God takes dreams.
Sometimes he allows people to die.
Sometimes he says no to our prayers.
Identity and reputation and gold-gilded dreams were buried on that rough windblown hillside where we buried my brother.

When all else has crumbled, and we sit in a pile of ashes, he sits with us.
He never leaves us.
He is not daunted by our grief, disgusted at our processing, or fearful of our uncertainties. God is big enough to handle our hard questions, our angry tears, and our moments of most profound depression.

Even the seasons of silence, when our heart is too numb to breathe a prayer.
God can handle this…

And sometimes he does the unexpected.
Brings back the dreams we thought were shattered and gone.
God delights to be the Redeemer of our places of deepest loss and darkness.

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Daniel’s dreams of pursuing a medical career and serving in West Africa have been revived out of the shards of deferred hopes. Now we are plowing through the world of full-time school and work for Daddy, while I float life at home. With four children, homeschooling three of them, I’ve never felt stretched so paper-thin.

But this fall, Daniel plans to quit his job. His best job ever. With the best boss ever, who fully supports our crazy journey. Daniel needs to have more time for his school and more time for our four energetic children. You can only hold your breath and skip sleep for so long.

We are standing at the edge of a Red Sea. The step forward looks like insanity. It makes no sense. The pressure and demands are cresting the hill behind us, and threaten to cascade us with crushing weight.

We have to remind ourselves of why we are here.
Sometimes God calls us to step into an impossible journey.
Sometimes he needs to take us away from our comfort zone, from our place of ease. Sometimes the very stripping, the standing bare, the absolute vulnerability is precisely what we need. The standing with open empty hands may be richer than when we clutched our worn and hoarded coin purse.

Perhaps Job was richer when he sat in that pile of ashes and broken pottery and shattered dreams than before his health or riches were touched. Perhaps our moments of complete need are the very places where God can finally provide like he has been longing to.

Maybe you are standing face to face with your Red Sea too.
Maybe your heart feels panicked at the physical impossibilities or financial limitations. But quiet your heart.
These are hallowed grounds, the place where God walks.

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This is where God told Moses, “Take off your sandals, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” Shoulder to shoulder with Moses, we tremble with fear and dare not to look. But God is here. Where his holiness and our need come face to face, it is the perfect stage for his power.

Perhaps today is your first march around your Jericho. Perhaps you will be marching tomorrow too, with no results. Perhaps you have been praying about your Red Sea for years. Just maybe you feel heaven is made of iron and God doesn’t hear.

We know that someday every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. And everyone in His presence will join in the chorus, “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

What about now? In the middle of our unanswered questions, in the middle of our hard. Before our prayers are answered, before we see how God will provide.

Even now, before the page turns, we can join in the triumphant cry, and worship. We can worship from the rawness of inadequacy – perhaps even better than when all is well.

Let the salt spray from the Red Sea fill your hair.
Throw your arms wide and let the crashing waves pound the truth deep into your soul.

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The waters will part. The way will open.
Fill your heart with the song of praise that will be sung in heaven, and on the far side of the ocean once you’ve crossed through, dry-shod.

The way may look different than you envisioned. But it is good.
Far better than any of us could have imagined.

He whispers over your ear, “This is the way, walk in it.”
_________________________________

Photo credits go to grettagraphy.com who is moving to Australia for two years.
If you don’t already, you will not want to miss her journey over there.
She captures beauty well, shares honestly, and inspires me like few others…
My little sister is also my hero.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Paige says:

    I was deeply touched reading your words. So beautifully written❤️

  2. Tica Miller says:

    “God delights to be the Redeemer of our places of deepest loss and darkness.”
    ❤ Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder.
    I love your writing style.

  3. Motz says:

    🤔😕😢🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

  4. Christina Stoltzfus says:

    Thank you for this post, Melissa. I do not know you, but our husbands do. You have described our lives in a profound way. We are up against our Red Sea and you have encouraged me to not only hang in there, but also embrace this crazy journey! Thanks so much! Christina

  5. Dorcas says:

    This is so beautifully written and such an encouragement to my heart today. Thank you and blessings as you cross your Red Sea.

  6. I’m on the field in Honduras now at the Jungle Hospital. It was nice to hear your story and see how God is working.

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