(Yes, I'm finally learning. First song: How He Loves ;)
"His eye is on the sparrow . . ."
As the words escaped my dry and quivering lips, my heart took flight and my soul soared with the wonder of the moment . . .with the wonder of it all.
There are countless blog posts scratched out in my journal from this month spent in Ireland and only a few have actually made it to the posting stage. There's a reason for that. This month's race has been so hard. Honestly, so hard that my heart has not been able to release anything for blogging besides frustration, confusion, and/or wounds of the past revisited and raw. I have felt unsettled in sharing any of those with you, my team, my support, my loved ones.
Stories are ready to be written and those will come, for Ireland has been filled with characters that the world, my world influence, need to hear! They are stories of those met through ministry and even in a rush on the dart. The people of Ireland have not gone un-noticed and their stories will be told, whether blogged or spoken in service upon my return to the states next year. The stories have made this month's race worth every bit of the difficult days.
I shared the difficulty of my days with my prayer team and eventually with my family and Sheldon but I have hesitated in sharing it with you all. Simply because I want God to always be seen as the good God He is in my life. Through tough, tough ministry days that I felt would never end and nights spent frantic running from the nightmares of past abuse, God never left my side. He filled me with love in new ways. His mercies were no doubt, new every morning, and my team was here for me as I traversed through the ache regarding 10 years of my life. It was time for God to fix my heart and prepare it for the next 10 months of my journey. I'm still in process but my heart has grieved much and my mind has been allowed to understand more.
I wish I could share with you all what I've seen, heard, and felt the last month here in Greystones, Ireland. It was not all bad . . .but it was almost all a testing of my faith. God is so specific with His children. When He wants to address an issue in our hearts, He will show Himself faithful by bringing to light the things we try to hide and by putting us in the position to be wrecked and ready for His help. This may sound harsh but I would rather be wrecked by my almighty God any day of the week than by the world in all its' calloused ways of dealing with insecurity and pain.
I do not feel at liberty to reveal as much about my ministry time and my personal journey worked out while in Ireland but I look forward to Ukraine. It's going to be the most phenomenal month of my life . . .I can just feel it. God is already filling up the drought in my spirit with His joy and His love for others. Because I stopped trying to "fix" others for the month of July (often a gift I use as a crutch to push my own hurt aside), I now feel free to walk into August with a freedom and an open spirit to what God has for me next on His mission to the world. Yes I'm a missionary but no, I'm not perfect. I really struggled this month. I struggled with the past as I've stated but I also struggled with human emotions like selfishness and pride. Living with 25 people day in and day out with only your earphones to create "alone time," can be quite a stretch you can't prepare for! Ha!
But God did amazing things in my heart this month. I know this trip isn't about me. I know this life I'm living isn't at all about me either. God is using me though . . .and the only way I believe He wants to use me is by emptying me of my burdens and baggage brought on by myself or others through the years and by then filling me up to overflow His character onto all I come across in the world. I may not always love our ministry contact's theology or methodology or even my team's focus in every way, but God has not called me on the World Race to love logistics, He has called me to love people. That's it, it's as simple as that. He says, "Love, love, love, love." And since God IS love, basically reflect who He is. That is ENOUGH. No shoving anything down their throats necessary. He is powerful enough to speak through me, even when my mouth is told to not move. He does it all, not me. And for that I'm grateful because this month, I truly was struck down inwardly and had nothing to give the people. He worked anyway. See, He IS a good, good God. I love Him.
I look forward to next month as my team and I head to work with the children of Ukraine, leading a tried and true day camp for them in a town I can't pronounce, where a language is spoken that I can't understand. I know that plans often change so I will not confirm details of the ministry until they actually come to fruition but I will transfer my love for the children that God has been building inside of me for months, before I ever left for the race. I see Him using my team Aletheia in ways unimaginable this next month and I ask for your prayers. We have been through the fire in month 1 and now I believe with all my heart that we are to BRING the fire in month 2. A different fire. Not a refining fire but one of passion . . .of fervency . . .and of love. People need that everywhere we go. We know the source. Jesus. We are on mission with and for Him and we love it, come what may :)
Thank you so much for praying. That has meant the absolute world to this little girl in a tough month on the field. I miss you all. So much. I am not fully funded yet but I know God will provide. He always does and He often uses you so thank you for that. I ask one thing in close, That my story would move forward on mission for God's glory, through YOUR prayers. That this month of testing wouldn't be for naught in your hearts but instead would be understood as a month that led hearts to victory. God sees the bigger picture and as I stated so many times before leaving for the race, if ONE person was affected by the good news of Jesus Christ and His love, through service and even a hug, than my 11 months away from all I know is completely worth it. That happened in Ireland. At least 6 people that I KNOW of came to know Jesus as Lord through our three team's efforts and more people than we can count were LOVED. on and offered hope for tomorrow and even eternity.
It was easy to forget while living in Ireland, that God was Here. That God was watching me seemed like a distant memory of what I know to be true but couldn't feel. I had the opportunity to sing one of my favorite songs one day as a friend and I led worship for a "Travelers" church service. God laid it on my heart to sing and nervously I did. "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" has special meaning to me because of my isolated past. I sang to the Travelers as if their life and mine depended on its' Biblical Truth. And it does. Speeding forward 3 weeks to this morning in church, my host was speaking to the congregation, leading them in the teaching of the Scriptures and suddenly spoke directly to me and said, "I know this is a shock (Irish accent, remember?), quite the surprise really, but Lauren, would you be willing to come up here and sing that song you sang for the Travelers to close our service?" There have been many moments in my life that God has blown my mind with His sovereignty but in that moment, God brought all my pain of the last month (And really 10 years of life before He set me free) to light and revealed His promise to me and all worshiping with me in the room. In all those painful years of the past and in this honestly, quite dreaded month in Ireland, Jesus NEVER left me or forsook me and He absolutely NEVER will (Hebrews 13:5). I once was bound but Jesus, in His mercy and grace, set me free. He is FREEDOM and I am FREE.
". . .and I know He watches me."
PS I'm known as "LO" to all on the race because there is a Lauren in my team of 7 and it can be confusing!!)
Passages that have really spoken to my heart this past month: John 13:31-35; 15:4-17, James 1, Ephesians 1 & 6, Hebrews 11-13, Isaiah 40 & 61, Psalm 23, & Philippians 2:13!!!