Change Happens in the Desert

Prayer is hard.
 
As a young girl growing up in a Christian family, I went to church (on many occasions more than once a week) and attended a Christian school. So, you can imagine just how many times I was told I needed to be disciplined in reading the Bible and prayer. Naturally, after hearing this I would go upstairs in my room and try. I can’t tell you how many times I would tuck myself away, try to quiet my thoughts, and pray to this invisible and inaudible Being. But I began to notice the more I tried to will myself to pray, the more I disliked it. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t have much to ask for, and besides, did God even care about the things going on in my life? If He did, it’s not like he responded audibly to my requests anyways.
 
Though my idea of prayer and God changed as I grew in my knowledge of and relationship with Him, I still struggled with prayer. What about the many times I had called out to him – no, begged – for him to change a situation or give me something and He hadn’t? Was He really who He said He was? And if He’s so powerful, then doesn’t He have the ability to do these things? So why isn’t He? Those are just a few of the many doubts I had (and still have) that kept me from reaching out to Him. But God was working in my heart and, about a year and half ago, I asked God to transform my prayer life and give me a desire to pray. No, it definitely did not happen overnight. I tried to read books on prayer, ask friends for advice on prayer, etc. As a matter of fact, many times I got so frustrated with not seeing any changes in my prayer life that I would sit in my room and force myself to be quiet and pray. Of course, this only led to me being hard-hearted with the Lord and forcing an outward prayer that my inner self was not praying. It was then that I decided that if God was big enough, He could and would change my heart in regards to praying and it wasn’t up to me to force it. Ironically, that was actually making things worse.
 
So, I stopped praying. And God started working.
 
Several months into this process, circumstances in my family’s life and my own personal life brought me to a place where I had absolutely no control. I was desperate – I could do absolutely nothing to change the situations – so I began to pray.
 
In his book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller recounts he and his wife’s experience of having an autistic child. He calls the space in between hoping and reality a desert. “The hope line represents our desire for a normal child, reinforced by our prayers from Psalm 121. The bottom line is the reality of a harmed child. We lived in the middle, in the desert, holding on to hope that Kim could somehow be normal yet facing the reality of her disabilities.”
“The hardest part of being in the desert,” Miller says, “is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.”
 
This sounds utterly hopeless, doesn’t it?
 
But Miller draws our focus to what God is doing in the midst of our complete vulnerability and weakness. He explains that “The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances… The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.”
 
“Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self. Desert life sanctifies you. You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert awhile that you are different.
 
“After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert David writes,
‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ Psalm 63:1
 
“The desert becomes a window to the heart of God… You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The clear, fresh water of God’s presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart.”
For so long I had only viewed prayer as a way to get things from God; an avenue through which I could change situations and circumstances; a tool to access His power when I am powerless. That view is not entirely wrong! In many ways, it is completely scriptural (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 18:19, Psalm 107:28-30). But often times, God chooses not to grant our requests or chooses to make us wait for years until He answers them. When we view prayer only as a means to get what we want, we are missing out on potentially God’s biggest purpose for prayer: bringing us closer to His heart and carving us into the image of His Son, Jesus.
 
I had always thought that through prayer I could change things, but I never realized that God was using prayer to change me. In my powerlessness, God has begun to show me aspects of Himself that I never would have seen unless I was desperate for Him. And slowly, but surely, He is changing the way I pray to become more aligned with His heart.
 
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
 
Have your way, Lord.

-Maggie Addison, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Maggie as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!

My Journey to Mexico

God has led me to the country of Mexico after college, but why? Why am I going? How did He “lead me” there?


Over the past year (at least), the Lord has been ordering my steps so that I would be going to Mexico in August. It is crazy to think about how intentional God is, but I am so thankful He works in ways that I could never comprehend.
 
My story starts about a year ago when I was in South Africa with a college ministry. At that time, I believed I would have been going on staff with that ministry when I graduated in May of 2018. However, the Lord made it abundantly clear through that trip and a few months afterward that He was not calling me to go on staff with this college ministry. I went through a season where I mourned the loss of this dream. I had no idea what I would be doing after school.
 
While I was studying Elementary Education, I really did not want to teach. When the door closed to the college ministry, I could not even begin to imagine what I would do after graduation. However, in God’s kindness and love, He began to grow my love of teaching. I found a joy while I was teaching that was not experienced outside of it. I knew that God was leading me to be a teacher. I was overjoyed. My family was excited. I finally knew what I was going to do! I knew I would be teaching in the Greensboro, NC area after I graduated.
 
In addition to this, I was seriously dating a guy and had just joined a Church in the area where I was beginning to experience an incredible community. I was thrilled to finally be finishing my college career and beginning to start planting roots somewhere.
 
Oh how often I try to plan what I think my life should look like and how it should go.

Proverbs 16:9

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

The guy that I was dating and I broke up at the beginning of my spring semester of senior year. My family started to fall apart, literally, and I was beginning student teaching. Needless to say, that semester was going to be a constant fight for joy and hope in the Lord. However, the Lord was so incredibly kind in what He was doing in my life.
 
Little did I know, He was setting the stage for me to get connected to Global Education Ministries (GEM).

Global Education Ministries 

They are a ministry that is based out of Wilmington, NC that believes that education is an incredible tool to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ into communities that do not have access to Him. They plant schools with teachers and staff who are passionate about making much of Jesus through their work. Their first, and largest, school is located in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. It houses almost 200 students that are in Pre-K through 9th grade.
 
So how do I fit into this?
God so graciously has called me to be a 2nd-grade teacher at Centro Educativo el Manantial for the next two years.
I get to partner with a community of people that want to make Jesus known through their work, and I have the chance to take part in it. I get to be a very small part of what God is doing throughout the world in a country that is not my own. It is a privilege to know God because of Jesus’ work on the cross, as He took the punishment I deserved so that I could be made right before a perfect and holy God. It is humbling and exciting to be joining this team.
 
If I would have had it my way, I would be doing something far different than this, but luckily, God had established my steps, not me. I will strive to faithfully walk in the way that He has called me to walk, as I seek to know more of God and make Him known.
 
God is so kind to His people.

-Rachel Hill, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Rachel as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!

Follow me

One gift of a Monday with no school, thank you Mexican Independence Day, I met with a friend for a run on the beach. With the sun on our backs and the sand sliding into our shoes, the miles and conversation passed quickly. We arrived to our destination, catching our breaths in a shady area. The ocean was filled with surfboards and tourists, and we watched as joyous and shaky riders conquered waves and face planted into others. Yet always willing to paddle back out and try again.

I’m sure many messages have been and could be written about the connections between surfers and following Jesus. The unknown of the waters, the determination and ability to take risks…but, I’m not going to talk about those topics. For off to our other side were 5 men. Five men that had nets, simple clothes, and no shoes. Fishermen.

I’ve never had much interest in fishing. After seeing a hook get stuck in the palm of my big brother’s hand, I stayed away from the sport. If I’m honest, maybe I just don’t have the patience. Regardless of the reason, I had never really watched the process. I was mesmerized as the men worked together, casting out the net, pulling it in, each with his own purpose (one seemed to simply keep the others laughing).

We watched them pull in a big load, the birds loudly protesting from above, and my friend turned to me and made an unforgettable observation, “Just imagine Jesus walking up to these men and saying Follow Me.” And I realized that I had never truly paid attention to that part of Scripture. I always took for granted that of course they would follow Jesus. Of course, they would understand what was to take place by leaving everything to follow Him. But they didn’t.

So, I thought about what that meant for them to leave their nets. In Matthew 4:19 it says that Jesus simply states, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” He doesn’t say, “Don’t worry, you will always have enough to eat” or “With me you will see amazing things of God.” Jesus only says, “Follow me.” He doesn’t entice us with beautiful views, delicious food, or amazing coworkers. He just wants us to follow Him.

I will never forget a quote which states, “When you delay obedience, doubt and excuses creep in.” For the next verse says, “At once they left their nets and followed Him.” They were the first ones. They didn’t have the gift of seeing others already following Jesus. They didn’t read books about missionaries or watch inspirational movies. They heard His call and simply obeyed. And I think in many ways if God did show us His plans…well, in our humanness, we would freak out a little bit. So, in His graciousness, He shows us one step at a time. One day at a time. One moment at a time.


IMG_6744Sarah Quigg is serving her second year at our school in Mexico as the 5th-grade teacher. We are so blessed to have her on our team, and our students are INCREDIBLY blessed by her God-given talent for teaching and loving them so well.

Good

All throughout school my English teachers have tried to broaden my vocabulary. “A lot is a piece of land, not a description of many things.” A dragon isn’t scary; it’s terrifying or frightening!” And the most common correction: “You will receive points off if I see the word GOOD on your paper.”

And so I journeyed through high school avoiding the word good like the plague. Excellent, magnificent, incredible, breathtaking. Those are words that add life to the blank page.

It all started back in elementary school (which is feeling farther away than ever these days). I was a typical, needing my sister’s approval, young girl and my Mom was taking us shopping for new birthday skirts. What seemed like hours later (I’ve never been a professional shopper), and thinking about the next chapter of my awaiting novel back at home, I finally pulled a skirt from the rack that just might be THE ONE. It had oranges, pinks, and reds all throughout a swirly pattern (if it sounds hideous…Well, it most certainly was). I was in love. I found the perfect complimentary shirt (imagine a tasty sherbert orange kind of color) and headed for the dressing room. It fit perfectly (due to the handy elastic band) and I boldly opened the door to show the world!

My sister took one look and said, “yeah, it looks good.”

Good? These colors looked amazing, stupendous, lovely. But good? I returned dejected. There is no way I could buy a skirt that was just…Good. (after some encouraging words only a Mom can give I ended up wearing that skirt for many years).

And so explains my aversion to the word good. Until I heard that song. That song that most of you have now running through your mind. That song that describes our amazing, merciful, trustworthy God as a GOOD GOOD FATHER.

That’s when I did something that many word lovers can relate to…I looked up the definition. Good: morally excellent, virtuous, righteous.

And then those lyrics made a little more sense. Actually, a lot more.  Because nothing else in this world can be described as good. Humans most definitely shouldn’t be, as we fail continuously every day. Animals, nature or even a colorful skirt can be used for evil.

Then we catch a glimpse of the work of our good, good father. We see Him turn an evil act into bringing glory to His name. We see Him redeeming and refining His people every single day.  And most importantly we see that in any situation: an unexpected death or sickness, a financial burden, or even just a hard day…Life can still be lived with joy because God is still GOOD.


Sarah Quigg graduated from Liberty University in 2015 with a B.S. in Special Education. She loves running and growing closer to God while exploring His creation! This is her second year teaching 5th grade at the Manantial School in Mexico. 

MARRIAGE, MEXICO, AND MINEFIELDS: THE JOY OF FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE UNKNOWN

“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.” – A.W. Tozer

CHANGE: WRESTLING WITH THE UNKNOWN

If there is one thing in my life that I consistently struggle with, it’s changed.

Six years ago, I moved away from my family in south Georgia for college in Virginia. At the time I was 21 years old. I had never been away from my family for more than 2 months. Moving away was incredibly frightening. In my case, change meant moving 8 hours away from friends that I had invested in over 21 years of my life. Change meant a lot of new, uncertain things in my life. For a person used to safety and comfort, this was very difficult. It meant that I was moving into a new setting where I was the outsider, the new kid.  Yet, I knew God was leading me away from where I had been for 21 years to grow and live independently from my family.  What I didn’t know at the time was that change was soon to become the mantra of my life. I had no idea that God was going to use the thing I hated the most to shape and refine me, day-by-day, moment-by-moment.

Tim Chester says, “Change is a lifelong, daily struggle that will end with an eternal harvest of holiness.”

God uses change in our lives, good and bad, to refine us and shape us into the image of Jesus, bringing us into fuller joy.

REDEEMING THE UNKNOWN

In my own life, God has used change in several ways to shape and refine me. In college, I was forced to stand on my own. I was taught through the unknown transition into adulthood that God can be trusted in all circumstances. Because of my experiences in college I came to understand the church with deeper clarity and conviction.  I learned that God does not only intend for us to show up once a week to a building to hear his word preached but that the church is his body – a people redeemed by Jesus sent into the world to be his witnesses. I learned that the church isn’t a place at all – it’s a people. I learned that God calls me to worship every single day, not just on Sundays. I learned that the church is this messy, broken, redeemed, beautiful, healed people trying to live in light of the truth and that we have been declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus.

God was also revealing to me that discipleship was much more than just one on one meeting or a bible study. Rather, discipleship is submitting all of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Jeff Vanderstelt writes,

“Discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, where our lives are visible and accessible to one another; life in community, where more than one person is developing another; and life on mission, where we experience making disciples and, while doing so, come to realize how much we need God’s power.”

Ultimately God used my time in Lynchburg to grow me and help me to see the beauty of who Jesus is and who He is making me to be. I have found Proverbs 16:9 to be fittingly and sometimes frustratingly true – “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

MARRIAGE

mcdonaldsRecently, another life change occurred: I married my beautiful wife, Kristen. Marriage, more than anything else, has already been one of the most difficult, joyful, sanctifying realities in my life.

God’s grace is at work, transforming us as we navigate these recent changes together.

Marriage is messy. My wife sees my life for what it is and I see the same in her. This is what makes it so amazing! God is in the works of changing us—through marriage—to His likeness.

Paul Tripp reminds us that God uses spouses as tools of change.

“When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your spouse, and he is committed to transforming him or her by his grace, and he has chosen you to be one of his regular tools of change.”

God is redeeming the difficulties in marriage to transform us. He is using our transition into marriage as a means of changing us. He is using the sin, brokenness, selfishness, and mess as tools of change for the sake of His name.

MEXICO

When Kristen and I were dating, we often dreamed of what our future would look like, where we would be, and who we would be serving. We had plans to settle in Virginia (quite comfortably) for a season before we would eventually move to Portland, Oregon to be a part of a church planting team for the sake of Jesus’ name being made known in the Pacific Northwest. However, God had different plans. Again, Proverbs 16:9,

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

My wife was recently attending a local fair for teaching jobs when one particular school seemed to stand out. This school is called Centro Educativo el Manantial (CEM). This is not your normal, American public school. This is an English immersion school that is found in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It was started by an organization called Global Education Ministries. When Kristen first told me about this, I remember thinking, “there is no way we are moving to Mexico!”  Why would I want to go to Mexico? We already had a great plan! We had a safe plan. We had a comfortable plan. We had a plan that required minimal change. We would stay put for a couple of years and then move to Portland.

So we prayed. And prayed. And we sought wise council and deliberated with friends. Finally, after much consideration, wisdom, and prayer, we can say with confidence that the Lord is leading us to follow Him to a country neither of us knows, in an area we are unfamiliar with, and in a way we never could have expected. Six months after being married, we are about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives. Here is what we are learning – God calls us into unfamiliar situations that require us to obey and trust in His faithfulness.In light of all of this, we have committed to two years in Puerto Escondido, Mexico for the Glory of His Name! We are very excited about how the Lord will use this in our lives to grow us, mold us, draw us closer to Him. We are equally excited to see how He uses us to lift up the name of Jesus in Mexico!

PURSUING JESUS IN THE MINEFIELDS OF CHANGE

If there was going to be anything I’ve learned through all these changes it is this: Jesus is worthy of all our time, possessions, decisions, and personal desires. Psalm 103:2-5 gives us a beautiful picture of our God and who He is to us.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Nothing else in this world will give the satisfaction that Jesus offers. He is good and there is no one like Him. We were created by and for Him. It doesn’t matter if you are living in the states or in another country, God desires that you seek him with your whole heart. He has given his church a command: to make disciples of all nations. Therefore, all of us have a mission and that mission is to love and serve your neighbors, co-workers, classmates, roommates, spouses, and those you encounter on a daily basis. That mission may lead us into uncomfortable situations and deep into the unknown, but there is so much joy in following Him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” If Jesus, in joy, endured the cross, how much more can we, with joy, seek Him and follow Him wherever he leads us? He is our joy, our treasure, our hope.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to moving to Mexico. Where are we going to live? How are we going to raise enough money? What are we going to do with all of our stuff? It can be overwhelming thinking about all of these logistics, but there is beauty in following Jesus into these unknowns.

The less we know about our specific plans, the more we will be able to trust in God’s promises to keep and guide us. We have nothing to hold onto except for Jesus. What a joy it is to trust in His promises to take care of us!

God’s word tells us to follow Him regardless of the cost. Following Jesus will most likely take us through minefields of change. This means, we never know when some kind of change will happen in our life. We will continue to encounter change — sometimes to the extent to moving to another country. This will be a constant reality for the rest of our lives. The good news is – we can walk through minefields of change with an understanding that God is worthy of our trust. His name is worthy of our lives, regardless of the cost.


13002621_1137203002997725_8962894918079717680_oDaniel graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communication (2011) and a Master’s of Divinity in Evangelism and Church Planting (2014). He will be serving as the Director of Communication for GEM. Kristen graduated in May 2016 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and will serve as the 4th-grade teacher at the Manantial School. They enjoy playing sports, eating good food with friends, and exploring with their wonderdog, Nala. Above all, they desire to make disciples by making Jesus known in Puerto and around the world. To read more posts on Daniel’s personal blog, click here.