The back to school weeks were punctuated with meetings (school and conservatory x3), children's ministry (for which we're responsible), family visits, medical appointments, organising a baby shower and my husband's 50th birthday, discussions and decisions regarding the work on the house, and – on my end – more book revisions.
I've had great input from other authors on my Regency that I started writing a year ago, and though I still have three people currently critiquing it, I've printed it out to start doing line edits on what's already there. This is the fun part of book writing. It's when my left brain can take over and I can puzzle over sequence, grammar, details, etc. The words are already on the page – they just need to be whipped into shape.
In September, we had a guest speaker at our women's monthly meeting at church. I think I've spoken of her and her husband before on my blog. Her name is Lin, and her husband oversaw our humanitarian efforts in East Africa in 2001 from where he was stationed in South Africa. Lin spoke about our church's theme this semester, which is "de tout coeur" – in other words, "all in". She said that it's easy to be all in when we're 20 years old, but to keep up that fervour when we're 60? To go the long haul until we're 80?
"No one told me 80 years would be so long!" she said.
In the Olympics, no one ever gets praised for great starts. It's the ones who persevere who get the praise. To keep going strong in the faith, you have to remember the miracles. Her husband, Mark, went to Africa speaking no French (I think he began in Ivory Coast, where it was necessary, though he spent most of his time in South Africa). He showed up with a few guys and started sharing his faith with what little French he knew, and they started a church that way. Now there are 95 sister churches throughout all Africa.
Lin was on the New York City mission team with just a few rows of people filling the church. She could never have dreamed that one day, she'd be speaking in Madison Square Garden for the church's annual Woman's Day, but that's what she did year after year (I'm not sure if it's still held there – it was when we were in NY). God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.
She shared that a life of faith is not without hardship. When Lin was 28 and newly married (and crazy in love), her husband, Barry, was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor and was given one year to live. Besides the heartbreak and the fear she felt was also disappointment. She had been living in a God bubble – like, I follow God, and therefore nothing bad can happen to me. It was so disappointing when that bubble burst.
When they got the diagnosis, she met the news with fear and wanted to stay close to hospitals so he could get the best treatment possible. Barry met the news with faith and wanted to go start mission teams. In the eleven years after his diagnosis, they had three children, and moved to four different islands to plant mission teams there. He finally went to heaven in 2001 while my husband and I, newly married, were in Africa. Meanwhile, a short time later, Mark left his post in Africa, and he and his wife moved back to the States. She died of a stroke almost immediately upon their return, and a couple years later, Mark and Lin (who had been, with their spouses, very good friends) got married.
Disappointments come, sometimes like crashing waves. Lin lost two of her brothers, her father, her husband ... and her mother has had cancer three times. Lin was a prisoner of war as a child, and the terrorist attacks that are ongoing pretty much everywhere remind her of that time. The polarisation in our country hurts. There are disappointments within the church, from the people who are supposed to love us.
She shared that recently, she finally got to the point where she admitted, "I don't have enough faith to handle where I'm at in life." She's a ministry leader and oversees the spiritual well-being of 220 women, but she said she doesn't need admiration. She needs to get to heaven so she's not going to shut up and pretend that everything is okay. "The world does not need more comfortable hypocrites. I don't care if I lose my job."
After listening to her speak, I realised that I also don't have enough faith to handle where I'm at in life. Or ... I have faith, but it's like the shell of a snail that has grown too small. It's too confining and doesn't fit anymore. I need bigger faith, more elastic faith to encompass these trials and challenges.
Lin shared that when you're weak and discouraged and vulnerable, you need to beg for God to fight for you. We're not stronger than Satan, but God can help us and he is stronger. Jesus has already finished the race. Here are Lin's seven ways to fight for your faith: