I hadn’t known grace. I hadn’t known surrender. I hadn’t known what it looks like and feels like to be okay with God’s approval and God’s approval only. That is, until the Dominican Republic.
The most important day of the trip found me highly emotionally unstable. I was about to spend several hours with our Compassion sponsored sweetie, Meranyelis, and it just so happened that every perfectly planned thing went wrong for me that morning. To make things worse, I brought my camera, but forgot the charged battery back in the room. That left me without a functioning camera, the ONE physical possession I really
thought I needed that day besides a swimsuit. Knowing how much I love and treasure pictures, God, in His infinite wisdom, provided Lairs, a photographer, to capture beautiful moments during my visit with Meranyelis.
It was awesome to have Lairs as my one-and-only photographer, but 40 other child-sponsor memories were waiting to be memorialized too, so there were plenty of times when it was just me, our sponsored sweetie, her tutor and the translator. No photographer. No camera of my own. Nobody else capturing moments from the sidelines.
Those moments were quiet, intimate, precious.
I vividly remember the moment when God’s still small voice stirred in my soul, the moment He asked me to work quietly behind the scenes, for Him and Him alone. It happened somewhere between our first swim in the big pool and our Dorito-stained fingertips in the treehouse. Meranyelis and I were off the beaten track, walking down a dusty, dirty, rocky hill towards a swimming pool with a waterslide.
As we walked down that hill, just the two of us with the translator and tutor following behind, I knew there was a good chance Meranyelis would be going on a waterslide for the first time. I was desperate for Lairs, my cameraman, to be there to capture the moment! I didn’t want to miss this! I wanted to be able to send Meranyelis a photograph of the first time she went down a waterslide! I wanted her to be able to show her friends and remember how fun it was for months and years to come!
But I had no camera. I had no cameraman. Lairs was nowhere to be found, and I wasn’t about to waste precious time chasing him down.
There was, in fact, nobody in sight with a camera.
This moment of grandiosity was NOT going to be captured.
And that’s when I heard God’s still small voice. As I held Meranyelis’ hand, as my bare feet walked the uncomfortably rocky, dirty, dusty soil, I heard it in my soul. Just be with my child. Will you love her? Will you serve her? Will you forget about everything else, just be with Meranyelis and enjoy the moment, even if the only evidence is in the recesses of your mind?
There was no other choice. God put me in this position for a reason. I needed to surrender. I needed to know what it looked like and felt like to REALLY serve with my whole heart, for no other reason than to faithfully love the person in front of me. I needed to love this girl, to serve this girl, to be with this girl because she’s God’s beautiful creation, on loan to me for such a time as this.
I whole-heartedly accepted God’s invitation to work behind the scenes.
Extravagant cameras were nowhere to be found. Cell phone cameras were nowhere to be found. NOBODY was to be found. It was just me, Meranyelis, the tutor, and the translator. On a hill. Together in the Dominican Republic.
As we continued further down the hill, Meranyelis decided she didn’t want to go down that waterslide. We stopped to ponder the reality of climbing those stairs. I showed her the slides and explained we’d ride down on a tube, that I’d be with her every step of the way. But she was hesitant. She didn’t want to do it. She couldn’t bring herself to go that high. She was, in fact, afraid of heights.
It’s interesting, really, how God chose to speak to me in that particular moment, how He asked me to work quietly behind the scenes without cameras, without spectators, without physical evidence of it ever happening.
It wasn’t a picture-perfect moment. It was just me and my sponsored child. In what turned out to be a very vulnerable moment. Meranyelis came face to face with her fear of heights. I was there to let her know it was okay. She didn’t have to conquer that fear today. She didn’t have to do it. I wasn’t forcing her to do anything. We were just there, together, as we were – faults, fears and all.
Nothing needed to be documented. God seared the moment in my memory. It will never fade, it will never wear, it will never tear. That moment He first asked me to work behind the scenes? That moment He asked me go, do and love just because? It was holy.
So it came as no surprise when God called me to work behind the scenes again.
On February 23rd, 2015, just 5 1/2 weeks after I returned from the Dominican Republic, God cracked open another chapter in the book He’d begun writing in me long ago. The chapter was unfolding like mad. It was literally writing itself. It was beyond me. I was simply along for the ride of my life. And I was determined to let God lead. He was clearly in control and had a plan. I knew it from day one.
By April 2nd, just three days before Easter, I was convinced and had proof on multiple fronts that this was actually happening. I was convinced of my role in this thing. I was convinced I was 100% in for the long haul. There was no turning back.
Everything had unfolded in private. It was incredible, miraculous, and delightful. Nobody knew what was going on except me, my husband and the few key parties involved. But things had progressed to the point where I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this inside anymore. I needed people to know. We were going to need help. And I knew that if this story kept going down the road it was on, that I’d have to make it public sooner rather than later. So I started sharing the story with a select handful of people – my parents, my mother-in-law, my God-size prayer and support team, a friend, three individuals from my writing group, and one other person who just really needed to know what was going on. Heck, I even shared a vague prayer request on my blog’s Facebook page the week leading up to Easter.
But the story took a turn.
I’d been belly deep in this thing since February 23rd. I’d experienced the fullness of God’s provision and love for His children. I’d witnessed a multitude of miracles. I’d been brought into a story that was ridiculously rich, fulfilling, challenging, rewarding and completely in line with who God created me to be. But by April 10th, I very clearly sensed God asking me to step aside, to begin working behind the scenes instead of on the front lines.
It wasn’t an easy decision by any means.
It means I won’t be sharing the story on my blog the way I planned.
It means I’ll have to break my promise to you, a promise I made the Tuesday before Easter that I’d share this whole story with you someday, that I’d invite you into all the details from the very start.
It means my role will change.
It means, at least for now, that I’ll be working and loving behind the scenes without anyone else knowing details except my husband and one family from afar.
It means, at least for now, that this story will continue to unfold largely between me and God.
It means I’ll have to trust that God folded me into this story and is now sending me behind the scenes for a reason. It means I’ll have to trust that He’ll work it all out, that He’ll carry it out to completion, that He’ll draw me back into the front lines if and when He sees fit.
I’ve been working behind the scenes for 9 days now. I’ve experienced moments of sadness, uncertainty, wonder and even a little doubt that there’s a bigger purpose in all of this. But I’ve also experienced peace. And joy. God’s shown me other ways to love, other ways to serve, other ways to give that are perfectly tailored to the deepest desires of my heart.
This is where I’m supposed to be. For now. For such a time as this.
So I’m wondering about you.
Are you on the front lines, or are you behind the scenes?
What are you doing in the quiet, to love, serve, and give, that nobody knows about besides you and God?
Maybe you’re caring for a disabled child.
Maybe you’re letting an elderly parent live in your home.
Maybe you’re loving a friend when they’ve fallen off the wagon yet again.
Maybe you’re donating to the crisis nursery, the homeless shelter, or the United Way.
Maybe you’re forgiving the person you abused you, betrayed you.
Maybe you’re setting aside time to mentor someone in need.
Maybe you’re giving your spouse a weekend away.
Maybe you’re serving at the soup kitchen.
Maybe you’re watching children in the nursery.
Maybe you’re bringing a meal to someone going through cancer treatment.
Maybe you’re sending a note of encouragement to someone who’s doing awesome things with their life.
Maybe you’re sending a note of encouragement to someone who’s down in the dumps.
Maybe you’re housesitting, dog watching, or cat watching.
Maybe you’re making big decisions on a nonprofit board of directors.
Maybe you’re wiping butts and cleaning toilets day after day after day.
Maybe you’re caring for kiddos all on your own.
Maybe you’re loving, honoring and conversing with elderly in a nursing home.
Maybe you’re making warm chocolate chip cookies for kids in the neighborhood.
Maybe you’re singing, writing, painting, photographing, creating…because you must.
Maybe you’re running marathons for a cause.
Maybe you’re running marathons because you can.
What is it?
What do you do behind the scenes? What do you do when nobody’s watching?
How does it fill you? How does it encourage and speak life to others? How does it make the world a more beautiful place?
“…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4