I’m heeding the nudge of the Spirit to chronicle My husband and my and now OUR family’s story of calling.
I am choosing this for Tuesdays because of some of the special women at Jen’s (Jen, of course, and especially Amy) that I have been getting to know for a few weeks, and I feel that you and any other consistent readers (especially dear Cherry, who is a co-laborer and beloved bloggy friend) might be the most blessed to hear this story.
But, truly, I know I need to do this for myself and my God as we continue this unique journey that will, prayerfully, land me in Budapest, Hungary as a long-term missionary within the year.
Trusting all who read be blessed with a touch of Him…
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
(FYI: Come back later if you don’t have a lot of time right now. Come with a mug of cocoa, tea or coffee and pretend that I’m telling it to you face-to-face. I think it’s an easy read, but I wrote quite a bit!)
Ok, where was I when I left you last Tuesday? Oh yes, that’s right…
My husband (His story) and I (My Story) living parallel lives (God’s Story) but still not having met! Parallel lives that included growing up in the same town (or collection of small towns), living not more than 2-3 miles apart for the vast majority of it. Going to the same school. In our small town home. So, why didn’t we meet? Well, he was a freshmen and I was a senior in the year we attended the same high school…and, while we may have passed each other only a few feet or less apart in the hallways, it was unlikely that a senior girl and freshman guy would form a friendship and definitely not anything more!
My Story: I had just come home in the summer of 2000 after all of my dreams and deep beliefs of how my life would turn out in very specific colors and forms were shattered and I went the only place that felt right. Home. I didn’t know what to do next. Yes, if I had been thinking practically (not a strong suit for me;), I would have thought of applying for a teaching job in either Math or Spanish as I had both degrees. But, I was desperately holding onto the life I thought I was supposed to lead and asking the God I believed then to be so small in some ways to mend my seemingly unmendable brokenness of a heart.
So, I finished two courses that I had gotten an extension for from seminary and applied for a ‘leave of absence’. I also thought this was the time to pursue freelance writing. For the first time in my life, my parents were in a somewhat okay place financially that I wasn’t a terrible drain living with them and not working full-time. I sent some poetry to ONE PLACE, got rejected, and well, that perhaps sort of quelled the freelance writing thoughts. (can you tell I am used to INSTANT affirmation and success when I do something??!!) Wrote some more poetry and a paper on Soren Kierkegaard and still remember the day I sensed the Spirit telling me that I would be coming fully back to Earth. It sounds weird, I know. But, I interpret it as ‘it’s time to leave the ivory tower of safe thoughts and parents supporting and roll up your sleeves and do what I ask you to do.’
His Story: He had graduated college in December of 1999 and til I came home in the summer of 2000 had already managed to seize an opportunity to go to Kosovo with two retired gentlemen and help re-construct in some small way what war had torn apart. Although re-construction never materialized he met one young man named ‘Aben’ who was a true, loves Jesus, Christ-follower. Missionaries had shared the Gospel with him and he had believed, but he told my future husband that he. was. the. only. Christian. friend. he. had. ever. had. I still get chills when I think of how this place is not too far from where we now prepare to go to. to live. and this special, only-God-can-do time in Kosovo burned a passion in his heart for all the ‘Aben’s’ who would believe if someone would only share and who need those to live in their countries and show them how to live the rest of their lives for Christ.
He was also living at home and, having the practicality I lacked, got a job using his degree (it’s a shocking idea, I know) and had begun to work full-time.
My Story: After the school year had begun, I decided to bring my application to the school district’s office to be a Spanish substitute. A. Spanish. Substitute. However, they who remembered the former valedictorian-do- everything-and-everyone-knows-girl would not let me leave without agreeing to a Math position they had been frantically trying to fill. I lacked a bit of paperwork that I thought ruled me out of doing what I didn’t want to do. Who teaches Math? Only the boring geeks who lack passion (and that was not me!) This, even though I had determined to be a Math major that day my twin suggested it and had studied hard through Calculus IV and the like until I was done! Well, finally after being hit over the head with some clear leading (can you say ‘fell into my lap’ like a lightning bolt?!) I agreed to take the position.
After all, it would only be for a year or two and then I would be off to some other place. I could do anything for a year. And so it went.
His Story: He was living steady eddy life working his job and yet experiencing an overwhelming desire to impact young people that were outside of the church. He began to inquire through a friend about helping out with the area Young Life ministry. And this is when I first heard his name.
My Story: It was a hard first year and my heart broke for my students. I already knew I had a huge heart for ministry and this was ministry. But, I also wanted to be able to form relationships with, and come alongside students in a greater depth than I could as a teacher. Don’t get me wrong. I did have many opportunities and stories that would fill a book, but I longed to do more for them. I longed to be someone who poured into the lives of high school students in a way that would build them for life. In a way that I would have clung to had it been offered to me in high school. So, I also became acquainted with the area ministry of Young Life through a friend who was, coincidentally, a very good friend of his friend.
Then, came the summer of 2001. I took my twin sister back to Barcelona where I had studied in college. She became engaged shortly after. I began to imagine grand plans of returning to live there…far away from Home. Still running as I had been since I first left home for college.
And then, in August of 2001 my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer).
Our Story: We kept hearing each other’s name, including me meeting a college football buddy of his--one that he had discipled through a team Bible Study—while I was in the Munich airport (on the way back from my trip to Barcelona) and this friend of his ending up with the seat right across from me in a HUGE plane over the ocean! I love sharing this part, because, in retrospect, it really seemed like a Great Enemy didn’t want my future hubby and I to team up. That Enemy saw what God could do through two broken lives desperately seeking Jesus and developing very kindred hearts to reach a generation coming. But, a Sovereign God kept reminding us of each other like he did on a plane from Munich, Germany to Newark, NJ.
Now back to my story:
My Story: The first day of the 2001-02 school year I rushed from school to get to the hospital where all of my family awaited as my mom underwent a 5 hour surgery to remove her kidney and all visible evidences of cancer in that area. I suppose it was seeking an escape from home that now held cancer and my still not dying to certain dreams, but that Fall incredibly so had me teaching full-time (the hardest I have EVER worked in my life) and holding a part-time ministry position at a church. I also continued to pursue ministry with Young Life and on a cool late Fall evening was asked to attend a prayer meeting to seek direction for a ministry at the high school where I was teaching and also where he and I had both gone.
His Story: He too was asked to come to this same meeting and I believe I e-mailed him directions. That cool Fall night when he met me outside in a driveway he said the Hallelujah chorus busted forth in his head:)
My Story: I had one simple reaction to watching him get out of his beat up Volvo station wagon and seeing his smiling face for the first time: How much younger is he?
Our Story: That night we heard one another pray and were thankful for some type of camaraderie in this venture. We also left with a sense that the other had a very special heart.
My Story: Before I would see him next, my mother, who experienced a wonderful lull that Fall after her initial diagnosis and surgery, had to be rushed to the hospital the night of my twin sister’s rehearsal. Yes. The night before her wedding. Our hearts broke and my twin wept as the news of cancer certainly in two places in bones and excruciating pain that had mom doped up on morphine made it impossible for her to be at her wedding the next morning. This too is a book that perhaps she and I will write together…it is definitely an incredible heart-breaking and inspirational story as her wedding unfolded the next morning…my mother heard the service wired into her hospital room…yes, not a dry eye at that ceremony…twin left for her honeymoon…and the rest of us (Dad, two sisters, a brother) rushed from the reception to a hospital waiting room as mom was wheeled into the next of many surgeries.
His Story: He was taking part in his second overseas mission to London, England which was a quite intense time of engaging Muslims in dialogue about Christianity. He had no idea what I was going through and neither of us could have imagined what God had in store for us in the next few months…
I am sorry…I am going to keep going…I understand if you don’t get to read this, because it’s gotten long…My Story: What followed after my sister’s wedding and the reality of cancer in bones was a whirlwind of decisions, coverage and missing school (something I hated to do!), and two hour treks back and forth from PA (home) and NJ (where Mom was during her rehab for 2 months!).
His Story: Processing London…learning of what I was going through
Our Story: He and I began attending the Young Life Area Volunteers meetings that were happening weekly. First we drove separately then we drove together…
My Story: I though I was a lot to handle and needed someone older that could keep me in check. Mistakenly, thinking older would mean more mature. In spite of myself, I began thinking of him as a possibility. It didn’t help that one day when I came to see my mother in the hospital she said, “I told the Lord, ‘I’m ready to go, but I just want to see ALL of my children happily married’” To which I said “Ok, Mom, no pressure!!” Since all of my other siblings were happily married!!
His Story: He was having a hard time with some personal struggles and ultimately his place in this world and what God would have for him. He also felt that I was out of his league! This makes me laugh, but I guess it was a throw back to those high school days…
Our Story: We began leading a Bible Study one morning a week for students at the high school. We would meet and plan and pray. These times were filling us more than we could say or even probably wanted to admit.
My Story: This was the least likely I ever felt to begin a relationship with my future husband. Yet, it was the perfect time. For the first time in my life I came to a relationship with nothing to give. Only a tired, grieving, broken woman who was seeking to love Jesus. I was utterly bankrupt. And I was indeed amazed to find that he was asking for nothing… and later to find he was falling in love with the broken, bankrupt me.
His Story: He, with the heart of gold that would outshine a hundred million others, wanted only to be my friend. He also felt that he was in no shape to meet his future wife. He felt like he had no strength to give and what would I see in him?
Our Story: My mama in the last few weeks of her life would meet him twice—not as my boyfriend, but simply a friend. And would tell those closest to her (but not me) that ‘this was the one God had for me.’ She died that May of 2002 with full assurance that he would become my future husband and she could go Home in sweet mama peace.
It was one month later that we started to date (not without quite a few fumbles along the way…Job 42:2 I claim over our getting together). Six months later we were engaged. Six months after that we were married in July, 2003. Here’s the story of our proposal and a little more.
We continued that Bible Study the following year, but it was becoming increasingly harder for me to be a good wife and teacher and do this. So he carried on without me.
The following December, less than six months after we were married, a missionary couple from HUNGARY! (yes, it’s coming, I promised!), Zach and Julie visited our church’s youth group and as volunteer leaders we both decided to go the night that they spoke. We didn’t sit with one another but were each going through something similar.
God’s Story in Hungary: Zach shared how in Hungary they had these incredible opportunities to speak in high school English classrooms. That the teenagers were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ after the fall of Communism and their parents had to live in a completely new way under a free market economy and democratic government. He shared how through an amazing opportunity developed in the mid ‘90’s that the ministry of Campus Crusade in Hungary had trained thousands of teachers in a drug, alcohol, AIDS prevention curriculum that includes the Gospel and because of this hundreds of thousands of students were being introduced to a relationship with Jesus. Because of these in-roads English speakers working with the high school ministry in Hungary had almost unlimited access to high school students in their schools while simultaneously being able to form relationships with the students outside of school, sharing the Gospel with them and developing them in their faith. (You can tell why I got so excited!!!!!!!!!)
Zach and Julie had come to recruit high school students for Speakout English Camp. But, they didn’t know who they were also recruiting…
My Story: I talked to Julie after and shared how both Jared and I had already been on shorter projects and was there anything longer? This is when the quick thinker she is mentioned STINT (a year-long internship with the ministry in Hungary) and, well, I was out of the gates and on my way!!
His Story: He was about to hear an earful from me about where we were going…but he was already thinking too…
It would be nearly two years, from this one short youth group meeting, without any other face-to-face connection to this ministry…But we were headed to Hungary…
to be continued…
Thanks for staying with me…I HOPE TO POST NEXT WEEK THOUGH I’LL BE ON THE ROAD FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS!
I would STILL love to hear your story…He is calling…tell me about it:)
Linking up with my amazing bloggy sisters…check this group out if you haven’t!