Chapter One: Not About My Plans, But His Purpose

When I resigned from 10 years of English teaching in Central Illinois, I thought God was sending me as a missionary to Africa…

Instead, He brought me out here to Texas,  honestly an “Africa” in its own right, at least by its 100 degree temperatures, but to be clear, it’s not Africa at all- the culture, values, and people are all different.

Where I thought I was going is not where God sent me.  What I thought I would be doing is not how God has used me.  And, who I thought I would become is not the person I am today.

Certainly, we have ideas, many plans, in our own hearts of what our lives will look like when we step into our futures following Jesus Christ; however, God has a purpose for us that always prevails.

This is a story of how God has purposed me to come to a new perspective about worship by trekking me through a wilderness…

I left Illinois on a hot day in July 2009, following my brother’s white pick-up truck, loaded with all my valuables, in my lil’ faithful Toyota sedan. They had invited me to come and live with them for the summer.  Since I had just resigned that spring from teaching, and God had not given me peace about going to Uganda, I agreed to move to the panhandle area of Oklahoma for the summer. So, they came all that way with their truck.

I had to give away my 7 foot Christmas tree, the one I used to always put up in the broad picture window of my beautiful Victorian apartment. I had to say goodbye to the place where God healed, filled, and restored my life:  those wooden floors that had met my tears in prayer, the plastered walls and mouldings that had watched God transform my life, growing me from glory to glory, the longest place I’d ever lived.

I still don’t know how I packed up 10 years of steady living onto the back of that white truck.  Honestly, I don’t even know how I finally managed to let myself be pealed off that couch to go with them, to head into the unknown future, just like that.

Every U-turn along the way screamed at me to turn back.  If I were traveling alone, I may have changed my mind.  However, I had all kinds of witnesses watching me and my reaction to stepping out in faith, including four precious young nieces and a nephew.  No turning back.  No turning back.

I ended up in Hardesty, Oklahoma that July of 2009, a town that held about 200 people.  Although it was an opportunity to rest, my whole world seemed up in the air.  This was no Africa.  I was not doing any mission work.  And, I was no longer an English teacher, which is how I saw myself for a decade.  Instead, I was now living in a place not my own, doing nothing but typing away on the increasingly popular social media, and I was uncertain of my future.  But, even in all this, God had me.  For where I had plans, He had something greater: God had purpose for me.

His purpose for me that summer was to bond with my family, get rest and healing (I had a hurt back due to stress causing muscle spasms that I hadn’t gotten healed of in years), and to share Christ with the youth in my brother’s church.

His purpose was also for me to practice piano in front of my nieces who would someday come to love playing the piano and to eat ice cream with my 2 year old nephew who thought my bowl of ice cream was his, as well.

I laughed so much for the first time in years that summer, shedding off my English teacher life of always grading, always in solitude, for children’s laughter and family connections.  God always knows what He is doing.  He always has a purpose.

As if those purposes weren’t enough, God also had a purpose to seed my heart with convictions regarding my walk and worship.

One day, I was at the church, sitting behind the organ.  A hymnal caught my attention. I can’t remember if it fell, and it landed on the page, or if it had already been opened to that particular page, but the song on the page was, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”

It was so anointed in that moment. As I quietly played and sang each verse on the organ, God asked me to respond to His simple, but convicting question, “Would you?”

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Him than riches untold.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause.
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame?
Would you?
Yes.

I’d rather be true to His Holy Name.
Would you?
Yes.

Every line broke me.  I was left with nothing but my “Yes.”  I knew it was just the beginning. 

God’s purpose in showing me that song, in having me commit a response to Him, as He went over it line by line, built convictions in me for the days of testing ahead of me.  His purpose was to seed me with what would solidify my walk of faith in Him in the days that would follow where I would have to choose by faith to trust Him.  He already knew my heart.  He was making me respond, so I could hear it, as well, so I would remember.

It was shortly after that, that I received confirmation in prayer that I was to attend worship school in Dallas, Texas.  It was also shortly after that, that my brother’s family got the call to be a pastor near Houston.  On their way further South, they were able to drop me off in Dallas.

Amazing how smooth transitions are in God’s timing.  Amazing how God always knows the true desires of our hearts.

You see, I had wanted to study worship more than I’d ever wanted to go to Africa, but I had been afraid to admit that to God.  After all, I wanted so badly to serve Him doing His will, not mine.  Would God allow me to attend worship school, instead of doing missions?  Well, He did! God already knew the true desire of my heart, and I now see that part of His purpose that summer was placing me where I needed to be to make that next step happen.

Where should I be? What should I do? Who am I?

These are important questions which will truly try our hearts.  God always has an answer for us. However, sometimes He will allow those answers to unfold, as He fulfills His purpose in and through us.

God’s Word says in Proverbs 19:21:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

That summer I began to learn this truth.

Well…like every story God writes, this was just a chapter in His glorious plan.  As, I finally got settled in for the rest of that summer, spending time with my family and finally getting some rest, I watched God quickly close this chapter with another new beginning for me in worship school.

Looking back, I am amazed at how quickly that time flew by.  Chapters in God’s story of our lives tend to do that. However, I’m thankful that His purpose always remains even as we enter the next chapter.

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