Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
(On a hike this fall in the Austrian woods--2 roads diverging......and I took the one less traveled by, from experience.)
"But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29
A cheap hotel room did not offer haven or beauty.Yet, it held me, a sacred sanctuary as I shyly approached the throne of God amidst worn, shag carpet, a faded utilitarian bedspread, holding my bowed head. On my knees, at 22, I had gone away for my first 24 hours alone with the Lord, I sincelerly poured my child-like heart and gave Him all the rights to my life.
"I love you. Use me. Show me how to live for you and your kingdom--I come as a willing student and want to know you and your ways."
Philippians 3: 8- 11 became my innocent heart's cry, along with Paul: "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
This was a come to Jesus meeting between me and Him--understanding that knowing Him would become the goal of my life--and that I was giving all things into His hands--my life, goals, paths, relationships, expectations, ministry, hopes and dreams--they were placed into His hands and so began my life-long pursuit of Him--the treasure of my life. I am not super-spiritual type, but more of a Peter, passionate and committed, often, just quite flawed in my perceptions and insights .
Yet, understanding this always gave me a place to go--that my lifetime goal was to know Him and love Him. Through the years, I would find mystery: "I don't know why this is happening." or "I don't feel qualified to handle this, God." But--I gave my life into your hands and so I will follow you where you lead and seek to understand Jesus more from every circumstance, at every turn in my road where you lead. And please know I long to glorify you."--this has made all the difference in my life. Every step became a point of looking to learn, to know, to worship.
As a young, naive, in-experienced woman, I had no concept of what this commitment would cost me or where it would lead me. The trials and battle I would face, would at times totally overwhelm me, as I had not trained to be a warrior for righteousness, and I did not know how much it would cost. And yet, my life was owned by Him, so I followed and obeyed and sought His ways, because a commitment between me and Jesus had been made.
God whispered, "Raise the children I gave you for my glory. Disciple them to go back into the world for my kingdom." And so through this knowledge, I home-schooled so I could spend all of my time with them, to cultivate their hearts, minds, manners and souls for His glory and to be a good steward of the lives He entrusted to me. It was what He called Clay and me to do, against all the advice of those in our circles.
Take a risk, have one more child. Even in the midst of 3 miscarriages, one in which I almost died, I had my 4th child at age 42, against the voices of those who thought this extreme--and who meant well, but they had not heard God speak to me in my quiet time. Children are a blessing, the fruit of the womb is a reward, and so at early mid-life, he blessed me with one more little girl, who has brought me so much Joy--pun intended.
God led us to disciple, through grace, a foundation of love and building character. Love is the foundation of your influence, he whispered.
"You aren't spanking enough," the voices whispered. You will ruin your children.
You aren't being the parent who stands on top of your children. Bowing your knee to serve them will give them a rebellious heart and they will get away manipulate you and become rebellious."
But Jesus' example was to love sacrificially and to give up his time in heaven to live, love, teach and serve his own disciples--and so we followed His ways.
And then, God led us to send our children back into the world to bring His kingdom work in very secular places, where the world was dark. New York City Film Academy; Berklee school of music in Boston, Oxford, Cambridge, Hollywood. College at 17, over 1000 miles away from home.
"Your children are going to fall in such dark, lost cultures. I can't believe you would let them go there without your supervision."
The voices kept haunting us through all of our years. And yet, we followed Jesus--he had said, "Father, I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but keep them from the evil one." And so we served them, instructed them, trained them, loved them with our whole heart and passed on a personal vision from our own lives to them as best we could, that God had especially chosen them to bring His light to the world-that they were designed to live a story of significance.
But along the way, Jesus whispered, "The world is a hard place--Have fun, and learn to memorialize joyful moments and life. Honor the beauty and pleasure of my world. Teach your children to dance and celebrate life--because I made them a beautiful world to experience, so they would know more of my character and grace for them. Don't live by someone else's law--live as a child, secure in her Father's love."
We started dinner groups, took trips international and at home, read and discussed every day, all the time, had our children serve by our side--because that is what Jesus did--He was "with" His disciples every day and taught them to serve alongside Him. And so we lived as a family with freedom, music, feasting and learned to be ourselves, in spite of the criticism or whispers of others who were afraid to live in His pleasure.
Because Jesus celebrated and made new wine when He ushered in His coming with a wedding feast--a joyful party. And He promised to come back and take us to a new feast in heaven. We had to follow the feasting, artist God, and learned to live life well.
And when we were criticized and pushed away from some circles of those who followed harsher laws than we had been led to obey, we forgave, practiced love, and extended grace--because, Jesus, while being reviled, did not revile in return, but kept trusting Himself to God who judges righteously. (I Peter 2: 23) And so we practiced and practiced and practiced forgiveness--mainly to other "Christians" who were the ones more difficult for us in our lives.
And when we were in darkest of dark times, we kept still and waited. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you. In this world you have tribulation, but I have overcome the world. Be still and know that I am God." And he said in Psalm 139, that "even darkness was not dark to Him"--so we trusted through our tears, that He could see even if we couldn't. He told us to trust Him, so we practiced.
And we loved wildly, deeply, generously through all of our mistakes, because Jesus said that all the laws and prophets could be summed up by "Loving God with all our heart, and loving our neighbor as ourselves."
And so like Peter, we remembered that "love covered a multitude of sins." And we lived for His kingdom--the one that will come, not the one that is here--because Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God."
And now, as we look back on our lives, we are so very grateful that His voice led us--because the fruit of our life in following Him has been so very sweet. He is good, He is kind, He is loving and He has guided us all these years. His voice can be trusted. His ways are sure--and in the end, all of us are more suited for heaven, because of His sanctifying hand, where we will be with Him forever at the marriage feast of the Lamb and us, His bride..
Knowing Jesus and following Him--the best and most blessed wisdom, and worship, we ever could have learned.
(A sunset that Jesus painted in the sky for Joy and me just, recently as we walked together on the beach in California,
for our pleasure and all who would see His fingerprints.......)
Watch the video below to hear of a new book about living an idealistic life., written by my friend, Tsh Oxenrieder.
Today, I am giving 3 away 3 copies of Tsh's new book!
And, because it also calls mamas to set up their ideals, to win their children, I am giving 3 copies of 10 Gifts!