At the end of my senior year, I attended a graduation dinner for a friend where a seasoned saint spoke words of encouragement over her as she embarked on a new season in her life. The theme of their speech was Psalm 37:4-
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Their point was that this verse, along with many others, is so easily misinterpreted as the modern American Christian overlooks the sovereignty of God in their lives. (We very much enjoy our illusion of complete autonomy.) It’s easy enough to read this as a “health and wealth” verse but it isn’t that way at all. In the context of the chapter, it holds a different meaning about fulfilling one’s life purpose even in the midst of adversity. I don’t remember exactly who spoke these words of wisdom or their exact phrasing, but I do remember that they said something like this:
“God will give you desires to desire. God’s will for you doesn’t have to be a mystery. He created you for a specific purpose and will guide your heart to His desires for you.”
This was a huge encouragement for me, as I was about to embark on a new season in my life as well. At that point, “God’s will” for my life was this ambiguous thing I couldn’t get a grasp on. I always felt as if the desires I had for my life would be at odds with what God wanted me to do and that following His will would be some sort of bargaining attempt where I compromised some and He gave into a few things that I wanted as well to “reward” me for doing what He asked of me.
But life as a Christ follower is so NOT like that at all. Being His disciple and using Psalm 37:3-6 as a prayer to align your heart with the plans that He already has for you can lead you to amazing places!
Back to me and Elijah—
Our solution to the conundrum of being led in different directions was continued persistence and long-distance dating throughout the long four years of our undergraduate studies. God led Elijah to LeTourneau University where he ultimately pursued a degree in aircraft systems and led me to Oklahoma Baptist University for elementary education and ESL.
Four years and 300 miles was an interesting exercise of our communication and conflict resolution skills. To this day, I know that God ordained that time for us to focus on our faith and calling from Him instead of being wrapped up in each other. Without it—we may not have made it, much less been introduced to MAF.
Elijah enjoyed his time at LeTourneau, making life long friendships, and majorly “nerding out” on a daily basis on the intricacies of how airplanes function. A private Christian university is the perfect recruiting hub for a variety of mission and service groups. At one of the job fairs, he stopped by the MAF booth to get more information and mentioned the idea to me over one of our many Skype-dates as something cool that we could do one day together as some exciting great adventure. My immediate reaction was that it would be a unique experience that we would dream to be a part of but that “real life” would likely hinder us from actually joining.
When I started at OBU, I thought I would go into cross cultural studies, since overseas missions was my end goal. But integrating education with a ministry degree wasn’t working, so I pursued a degree in elementary education and minored in ESL. Throughout each of my classes, I had the mindset that most of what I was learning wouldn’t be applicable to my long-term career—but God had a plan for using teaching to prepare me to be a part of MAF. I was unsure for most of my undergraduate career that I actually wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I spent time as a volunteer for a local ministry that used horsemanship and mentor relationships that I was able to confirm that I could see myself teaching.
Being apart for four years got very old quickly. We saw each other every three to six weeks on breaks and scheduled trips but it took a concerted effort to maintain a closeness. When we started planning for our future, we decided that real world experience would be our best preparation to serve on the mission field one day. So we each joined the work force as an A&P mechanic and elementary teacher.
There were seasons that it felt like we were doing the “American Dream” chugging away at building a life here by purchasing our first home, and welcoming sweet dogs into our family. The longing to be a part of something greater never went away though. Three years went by, and we began the process of looking into different ministry groups that we could be a part of. All along the way, MAF continued to stand out, as it had opportunities for us to both serve, as I could use my teaching experience to serve missionary kids and their families.
God made it clear that MAF was the desire He had for us. All along, we have preferred serving missionary families and organizations (somewhat behind the scenes to fit our personalities) and that is what MAF is in the business of doing! The meticulous application process and Technical Evaluation further confirmed that MAF is a ministry we would be honored to commit our lives to. It feels as if God has taken our giftings and abilities and woven them together with our dreams and desires to serve Him as a family by working to mobilize people for His service in isolated places.
The verses surrounding Psalm 37:4 speak to the perfect timing God’s sovereignty has had over our lives and the timing of this transition.
“Commit your way to the LORD, trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6
He has spoken to me, clearly and deeply though these verses to commit to following Him and keeping Him as the object of my delight and that the rest of my “purpose” or “justice” will become clear because my heart will be aligned to what He loves. This is the story of how God led our family to MAF. Even the expansion of our family worked together with His perfect timing to bring about His desire for us and we can’t wait to embark on our adventure for Him.