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Joy Abundant

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Tilling

In gardening the ground has to be tilled and stirred before things will grow. I looked up the process of tilling and it’s purpose in cultivation.

“Tilling fractures and disrupts the soil structure to make room for and encourage growth."

God fractured (or allowed the fracturing of) areas of my life and disrupted my carefully structured “peace”, he stirred everything up. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, so that I could learn to lean on him and trust him to press through it rather than run away.


College brought some of the toughest years of my life so far—not only was school challenging, but life was hard. Here and now are not the place and time to write about all the things that made my college years a mess, but they did include: a few deaths, divorce, ended friendships, a serious break up, medical scares, harsh resistance to my position in leadership, tough conflict, stress, and academic pressure to keep up and by the final stretch I was exhausted and empty.


These years and a few before them felt like my desert. I felt tired and aimless—wandering—wondering when God would allow access to rest in what he had called me to.


You know as a kid when you play underwater in the summer and you would hold your breath for as long as you possibly can? I thought it was a fun challenge as a kid; and when my lungs felt as though they were about to burst I would make my way to the surface with such speed. That first desperate gasp of air…that was what graduation felt like. Then began the rest and healing my body, mind, and soul needed. After our wedding and a little bit of chaotic travel we settled down. We had great friends, but we also had some time to establish life and routine on our own as a new family. Around this time of settling I wrote THIS post.


—fast-forward through lots of hard work, and waiting, and house-hopping we made it to our home here in PNG.


This new and fresh season feels like moving from my own desert to the land God promised.

From eating the provisions of Manna with a thankfulness, to finally getting to taste the produce of the Land flowing with milk and honey.


It’s not that life has become magically perfect, or that we never have bad days—there is just a joy that has come with finally being where God has been leading for years. The joy isn't because of the destination, but rather because of the one who brought me here.


I’ve been studying the book of Joshua for the past couple of months and something that really stuck out to me was that after years of waiting in the wilderness, the Israelites were finally able to enter their promised land, but they had to spend the next 7 years fighting to possess it before they were granted rest in the land. My story is not the same as the Israelites, I can’t claim their struggles as my own. However, their story reminded me of what God has been doing in my own life in a different context. I felt confident in God’s calling for me to pursue missions, yet it was just around 7 years before arriving here to our home in PNG. It was a long and tough 7 years full of struggle and fighting to persevere, but God walked me through it, faithful as always. Of course there were many times I just wanted to be here already, to skip past all the hard work and waiting, but God's timing is perfect--even if it feels uncomfortable. 


With this new gift-of-a-season has come a home and a semblance of physical stability --which (I) we have lacked for a very long time--and the culmination of a lifelong dream. It’s as though I can finally see and enjoy the fruit of all the tilling and cultivating.


Fruit

This season of life has provided steadiness, space, and peace. This space has allowed for create new rhythms and patterns in my life that I have been struggling to set in place for years. I struggled to have a consistent “quiet time” with the Lord and would beat myself up for it. Because of the changes in my job I’ve had time to start setting the foundation for habits that I’m hoping will stick when things pick up pace.


Spiritual Growth:

Moving to Papua New Guinea has provided a blank slate. One of the things I was most excited about coming into a fresh start was making space for intentional and consistent time with Jesus. Sometimes (if we get up early enough) Sam joins me and we work through one of the study books I brought from home. I like that we get to spend this time together and that I married a man who wants to spend time studying God’s word with me. I also feel thankful that I have enough margin to still get this daily time on my own as well.


These “Quiet Times” have been imperfect, beautiful, and impactful. Starting out I was more focused on creating a habit, it was more of a checklist item, but my intention was to get this time engrained in my routine until this personal relational space with Jesus became more natural and necessary. Now it excites me to start my day with Jesus.


I started a Bible Study with a group of individuals over email and together we’ve worked through the book of Joshua, roughly a chapter a day. This structure has helped me get excited about diving into God’s word because I know exactly where I’m going and I have gracious accountability. God has been teaching me through the Word directly and also through the women I’m studying alongside. This study has been such a beautiful experience and I’m excited to start on the book of Isaiah.


This time has also allowed me to work on the depth of my prayer. I never really turned away from God, but there was a bit of distance that the brokenness of the previous hard season led me to create. (I wrote about how I recognized this in a previous blogpost). The pace and peace of life now has allowed me to pinpoint some of the things I need to work on with God and trust him enough to bring them before him. I process things best through writing and now I have enough time to sit on the sofa with a warm drink and write out prayers; asking Him to heal remaining hurts, comfort my friends, and help rid me of some bitterness I’ve found I’ve been clinging to.


All of this has left me feeling refreshed and renewed. I always thought this was a cliche, but I can honestly tell the difference in my thoughts and mood on days I choose to start my day with Jesus as opposed to days I put “productivity first”. I’ve also began to more easily recognize thoughts that are not of Christ and discern attacks of spiritual warfare.


Again, this doesn’t play out perfectly in my life and I sometimes drop the ball more than one day a week, but it’s becoming more something I forget occasionally rather than something I maybe get around to on occasion.


The Lord, friends, is the source of all the joy I’ve found in this season.

Marital Growth:

As I grow deeper in intimacy with the Lord, my marriage deepens and strengthens as well.

It's been so fun to see and experience being so full of joy in the Lord that it overflows in service towards Sam. Our marriage has only increased in greatness. Our relationship wasn’t bad or struggling before, but we were too stressed to be overflowing. Several factors have contributed to this new thriving in our marriage.


One of the biggest factors has been having a home of our own. In our first year of marriage we only lived in a place of our own for a month at the longest. The main reason this was tough for us was that we didn’t have space to have important discussions or disagreements. It felt like we were under a microscope anytime we had an argument— our people were very kind and didn’t try to butt in or interject— it’s simply hard to have raw and deep conversations when you feel like there are people around all the time listening in, even if they had no intention to do so. Often our best conversations happened in the car, but if they included any kind of conflict the car suddenly felt too tiny and trapping for uncomfortable conversations. This stifling and lack of space for talking through the harder things led to more outbursts and louder “discussions”. We were also around each other 24/7 which was nice, but also I’m the kind of person who needs my own space every now and again—-or a lot really. So while I enjoyed getting to work together and be together most days, I was also excited to have some more space to pursue things I like to do alone occasionally. The new space allows us to do our own things and then come together and do things with one another.


I had a feeling that moving into our own home and starting more “normal” routines would help things even out, but I also was curious to see if once we had the privacy to have harder conversations would we have more open conflicts.


We address things more promptly now that we have the privacy to bring them up in the moment and as a result we’ve had significantly less arguments. I mean we still disagree on things, we are humans in relationship. Though we disagree, we haven’t really experienced much tension between us that can withstand any longer than a few minutes or a good meal (full bellies tend to make the "grumpies" disappear). Having our own place has been great and has presented lots of new ways to practice selflessness and service towards one another, starting a cycle and pattern of service, love, and respect.


Another factor of our marital improvement is room to be intentional in service. As I said before, the joy of Christ has been outpouring into my relationship with my husband. Right now I spend a lot of time at home. It’s been fun for me in my time away from Sam to think of new ways to serve him. What lunch can I make for him when he gets home? Can I get the dishes done before he gets home (he hates dishes)? What means of service mean the most to him?


When we were first engaged I bought the book “31 creative ways” by the Bethke’s —-and I’d tried to work through the book serving Sam in the past, but living in a home not our own, sharing a vehicle, being around each other all day, not having our own groceries made it difficult to really work through the book in the way I had hoped. It has been so much fun intentionally serving him (I haven’t been disciplined enough to make it through the whole book or do each challenge on the correct day, but the effort really does make a difference).


Personal Growth:

This time of job uncertainty has allowed a lot of quiet time to myself. This time has been beneficial in allowing space to listen as God reveals the areas in which I need some growth. I’m gaining a better picture of who I am as an adult, a wife, and beloved child of God.

I’m learning areas in which I need to grow in confidence and others where I need to put on a few more layers of humility. Moving and transitions cause stress, even if things are positive. This stress has led to struggle and grace right alongside growth and accomplishment. I’ve had the ability to recognize the unhealthy things in my life, habits, and thoughts and I feel so thankful to actually have the space and emotional capacity to work things out.


Community:

Finally, the Lord has blessed us with beautiful community.

We’ve been making new friends, getting plugged in little by little, and God is growing some really great relationships.


Right before leaving the U.S. a friendship of mine ended. It was a rough and painful ending, but It has been an encouragement to experience these brand new friends already reaching out, making us feel included, asking deep questions, and pouring into our lives while sharing their hearts with authenticity.


I feel so thankful for my dear friends at home who are still reaching out, speaking up, and pouring into our relationship from afar.


I also feel thankful that some of our best friends here have kids they are willing to share, and that they have allowed me to babysit on multiple occasions, fufilling a little bit of that need to spend time with kids.


Wanna know the secret?

The Gardener

I don’t want to paint a picture of perfection: we still get in little arguments, I still don’t know the language, I don’t feel comfortable how I dress, we’ve had some tough goodbyes, we still are selfish human beings, I spend all day at home and still don’t always complete the to-do list, we still have financial shortcomings, I have waves of self-consciousness about not really working.


I’m also not naive enough to believe that things will be smooth sailing from here on out.


John Piper said it really well in his Sermon “ The Fight for Joy is Essential: Part 1”

“I am not bringing the message that Christ will make you healthy, Christ will make you wealthy, Christ will make you prosperous in this life so you can have joy. Christ will give you himself so that you don’t need Health, wealth, and prosperity in order to be happy, but can have so much invincible joy in Christ that you can give up health, wealth, and prosperity in the sacrifices of love if God so calls”

And that’s where I’ve found joy abundant, in Him. In spending time with the Lord, in allowing Him grow and teach me, in learning his Character, in relying on Him when I can’t do it on my own. And that Joy overflows into life and makes it rich and sweet “even though”.


I’m very thankful for life right now; learning life with a husband, creating a routine I can accomplish (most days), growing deeper in my relationship with Jesus, desiring to start my days with the Lord, spending time deepening new friendships, fostering new hobbies. I get excited about the things I've learned I can accomplish: cutting hair, reupholstering chairs, cooking and baking.


I'm living the life I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid.


That doesn’t mean that life is easy; there are struggles and stressors for sure, but there is so much joy and peace found here in the faithful living in the place God has us. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, rather than constantly feeling out of place or surrounded by people with completely different life goals than me (valid goals, just different). But as John Piper said, it's not about the health, wealth, or prosperity. In the few months we've been here, we've experienced sickness, hard goodbyes, conflict, and have been a little short on finances.


Even so, there is joy.

I feel confident knowing that with my foundation deeply rooted in Jesus and my best friend and partner by my side, I will be able to face the trials and difficulties as they come. Because He has given us himself and that is all we need to experience joy in abundance regardless of our situation.

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