Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Heartstrings

I asked Jesus into my heart when I was 6 years old, in 1st Grade at Temple Baptist School.  I was blessed to have been brought up in a Christian home and fortunate to spend the first few years of my schooling in a private, Christian school.  Those years gave me a solid foundation to build my faith on.  Every morning, after the Pledge of Allegiance, we would have Bible time.  One day in October of 1987, by teacher, Mrs. Burrell, was telling us the story of Cain and Abel.  She was explaining to us what sin was.  I had heard the word in church, home and school, but there was something about that lesson and the reference to these brothers that resonated in my little heart.  The concept of sin sunk in, and I started crying uncontrollably.  My sweet teacher led me out of the class and took me into the church's tiny library.  She asked me why I was upset, and I told her because I was a sinner.  Then, I listed the terrible things I had said, done and thought as a 6 year-old.  Mrs. Burrell explained to me how God loved me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to take away my sins.  Again, I had heard all of this before, but on that day, it all made sense.  There, on the floor of the library next to a shelf of Nancy Drew books, I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart.  Mrs. Burrell and I told my Mama, who worked at the school.  She followed up with our wonderful pastor, Charles Phillips.  Pastor Phillips met with me for a couple of weeks and we worked through a book together that helped me understand the decision I had made.  Then, I went forward in front of the church at Newfound Baptist and made my profession of faith.  The next week, I was baptized by our sweet associate pastor, Gene Helton.  Even though I was only 6, I understood what I was proclaiming.  I loved Jesus, I believed He died for me, that He rose again, that He's in heaven, that one day He's coming back, and that I wanted to spend my life serving him. 

The next year, I was in G.A.s (come on Southern Baptist girls...you know what I'm talking about).  My teacher was Jennifer Bradley...a fireball of fun and wisdom.  G.A.s placed a strong emphasis on missions.  I remember reading about Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Jim Elliot, and many other great people of faith who dedicated their lives to serving God and others.  Again, at a very young age, I felt another tug in my heart.  This one telling me I was called to serve others.  In all of my elementary memory books, I say that I want to be a missionary or teacher when I grow up (except one year where I also listed to work at Pizza Hut, but I think that was the year the pizza buffet was introduced to the world).  I would check out books from our church library about missionaries.  I would listen intently to stories of people who had left their homes to serve elsewhere.  I helped put together the poster and map with the pictures of missionaries our church sponsored. 

As I grew older, I never forgot my salvation.  I absolutely made mistakes and messed up.  I even ignored the call Jesus had placed on me.  As a teen, I was given several opportunities to go on mission trips to cities, devastated areas, and places in our country where people were in great need.  I was always too scared to go.  I was scared to leave my little brothers.  I was scared to be away from my parents.  My younger sister, on the other hand, is one of the boldest people I know...she has passed that trait onto Cecely, and I am grateful for that.  If my sister heard a whisper from the Lord, she acted upon it.  While I, on the other hand, would raise "what ifs" and think of worst case scenarios.  (Just for the record, Andrea caught mono on one mission trip and gave it to me...we both were very sick for a long time...just sayin'...no hard feelings, sis!). 

As an adult, I felt that call louder, stronger, and more urgent.  Several years ago, I was part of the leadership team for the College and Careers ministry at Kingsland First Baptist in Georgia.  We took our group to the Passion Conference in Atlanta.  There were missionaries at the conference who were serving in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Uganda.  During that conference, I was fighting with myself internally.  I wanted to rush the stage and say "take me with you!  I want to go!".  I committed to pray for the missionaries and for the hundreds who went forward to learn more about going.  As I was the Mama of 2 very small kiddos, I thought to myself that God wouldn't want me to go and leave them or to take them to such dangerous places.  I justified turning down the urge.  But, that was temporary.  I expressed interest in learning more about training and preparation to go onto the mission field, but I was not encouraged to pursue that path.  When it comes to ministry, it is essential for a married couple to be on the same page.  When one person is ready to sale everything they have and hit the road while the other one wants to stay in the comfort zone, things won't work out. 

The beautiful thing about being a Christian is that your mission field is wherever you are.  That's what I teach my kids.  I tell them that everyday they are being missionaries, because we have no idea who knows Jesus and who doesn't.  I absolutely believe you can be as effective as Lottie Moon even if you never leave your hometown.  If you are serving the Lord and His people with all of your heart, mind, and strength, if you are pouring your life into the lives of the lost, if you are sharing Jesus wherever you are, you are a missionary...and what you are doing matters!

As I am entering a new phase in life, I am feeling that pull on my heartstrings again.  It's more like a yank than a tug, really.  I don't know what God has for me or where He wants me to go.  But, I do know He has called me to go.  I am trying to be more attentive to His calling on my heart.  I am spending more time in His word and reading other books that may help me understand what He wants from me.  For now, my mission field is right here in East Asheville.  I'm interested to see where God will take me.  He has been working and pulling on my heart for 26 years.  He hasn't given up on me, and He hasn't taken that burden away.  He has also placed the same call on Cecely's heart.  At almost 10 years old, she is asking when I can take her on a mission trip.  She has a great burden for the lost and the boldness needed to proclaim His Word.  We have had many friends take trips this summer to Guatemala and Kenya.  We have family friends who serve in the Philippines.  I am so grateful to be a member of a church that supports missions all year long.  I love that our church focuses on Guatemala and Kenya to devote their time, energy, and funds so that they can help great things be achieved in these places.  I am relieved to know that when God makes the way for me to go, I will be supported by a loving and supporting church. 

I encourage you to listen to the whispers from the Holy Spirit.  Pay attention to the melody being played on your heartstrings.  Do not put limitations on God and what He can do in you and through you.  He can accomplish more than you can imagine whether you are willing or not.  Think back to when you were little...what was God asking of you then?  Has it changed?  Probably not...God is the same forever and ever.  We are the ones who change.  Remember that innocence and childlike faith you used to exhibit...try to get it back.  Then, sit back, listen to Him and find out what He has planned for you.  I have no doubt that there are great adventures just waiting around the corner for us if we would just take the leap and go!

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