Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wherever, Whenever, However.

Okay, so I am the one who wrote about the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) in my Arkansas History class 2 years ago.  No joke.  This probably qualifies me as a church nerd.

At age 16,  by God's grace I was saved.  My parents had just divorced and I was in a new state and new school.  Mansfield High School.  A new friend shared Christ with me at school before track practice.  That same friend made sure I was at church for the next several months.  First Baptist, Mansfield, Arkansas.  It was there at FBC Mansfield that God used a group of friends and adults to disciple in me a girl who loved the Lord and loved being a Southern Baptist.  At that church I learned how to be a godly wife, teach my children about Jesus, and love sharing His Word through teaching and evangelism (not that I have ever been proficient at any of these!).  Hospitality, love for His Word, and community in a group of believers was cultivated in me that church.  I can remember KNOWING and telling my mom I wanted to be in ministry when I grow up (I am sure she thought I was nuts!).   No clue that my main man at the time would become my husband and God would choose us to serve him through full-time ministry together.  Totally overwhelmed by His grace. 
FBC Mansfield, AR youth group
Mission Trip to Dauphin Island, AL

God would take Warren, Tyler, and me to Denison, Texas for a season of our life to call us to go wherever, whenever, and however.  I wish I had a picture, but I know God chose to engrave it on my mind forever.  Our little Tyler was 20 months old and his tiny little knees knelt  down on that hideous pink carpet in our apartment with Warren and me and we made that commitment with God as a family.  Wherever.  Whenever.  However.  God used a Texas Southern Baptist Church and its people to help us see His plan.  Parkside Baptist Church.  We were there for only a year and a half but God used this time to reveal His call on our life.  God's grace.
Tyler and me at VBS at Parkside Baptist Church

11 1/2 years is what He gave us at Waldron.  Definitely one of the toughest things we have ever done.  Leaving local ministry with family.  God used our time in Waldron, AR to cultivate, mature, grow, disciple, encourage, love, forgive, and be comforted.  First Baptist Church Waldron mourned the death of our parents with us, celebrated the birth of 2 of our children with us, rejoiced in the salvation of 2 of our children with us.  Waldron is where our children call home.  We poured every fiber of our being into the student and children's ministry there.  We stacked chairs, moved tables, unlocked doors, started ministries, traveled miles, and had the privilege to love on an Arkansas Southern Baptist Church with all of our hearts.  Our home there was filled with ones we consider spiritual children.  God's grace.
FBC Waldron students, 2010

This past Wednesday, I was on my way to Hampton to the place where I am doing my field experience for school this semester.  The Ouachita River was absolutely stunning.  I just wanted to stop on the bridge and stare.  The sun was rising in the distance, the trees were beginning to show signs of color, and the water had a little "steam" rising from it.  Gorgeous. (Even though the trees are too tall to see sunsets, South Arkansas is still pretty.)  Just before this, Warren and I  sat in PJ's coffee shop on the square in El Dorado and enjoyed this community we have called home for 3 1/2 years.  We love our walks at Mystic Creek, Sunday lunches with friends at Poppy's Pizza, and sitting on the porch of Laredo Grill.  Murphy money for Benchmark scores has always been great to get too!  Our children have some of the best friends anyone could ever have here.  One of the many great things about following Christ is the heart bond we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Our time in El Dorado serving at an Arkansas Southern Baptist Church has been sweet.  We have seen students, parents, and our own daughter saved and baptized here.  We have been blessed to see students grow, serve, and be passionate about Jesus. We have traveled miles with students and watched families want to be in church together.  Immanuel Baptist Church has a heart for others.  Inside the walls you find that there is very selfless people.  People who took care of us so we could make memories, people who have never hesitated to give for students to be provided for, people who will fill shoe boxes, and people who don't mind going wherever needed to love people. 

We have also experienced community in El Dorado.  We have had the privilege to share the love of Christ on the baseball field, in social organizations, school system, and sports stadiums and arenas.  We have never been anywhere where God has opened doors like these before. 
IBC ski 2012, Durango

And now He sends us to love the Arkansas Southern Baptist Church from a totally different position than we have ever been in.  A place of a missionary.  We will get to love on and encourage Southern Baptist Churches all through the state of Arkansas.  We will soon begin our journey together as a family in Little Rock.  Warren will be a strategist on the Evangelism and Church Growth Team at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.  (www.absc.org)  I have never felt more like Sarah, Abraham's wife, than I do now.  We have no idea where we will live, but HE does! As we look in the land we are heading, only giants we see.  God knows this very well and is leading us safely in.  God's grace. 
"At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
God thunders with His voice wondrously,
Doing great things which we cannot comprehend.
Listen to this, O Melissa, (my addition, it really says Job :))
Stand and consider the wonders of God."
Job 37:1,5,14
"Now you shall see what I will do..."
Exodus 6:1a

Whenever, Wherever.  However.  We will go.

"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling...
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide my self in Thee."
-Augustus M. Toplady, 1776
Generations of student ministry.
From our very first student in 1999 to our present day student in 2013.
Totally Blessed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Filling My Toolbox

Here is the scene.  Brown chair and ottoman in the sunroom.  A laptop computer.  A bag of fall Reese's miniature candies in cute fall colored foil .  A 3-page single spaced paper due soon.  Real soon.  That's my world this evening.  In the background I hear Elise jamming out to some music.  I stop and dance with her on the way to the printer.  Grab my papers.  Dance with her across the living room and back to my chair I go.  I have been at this for 5 semesters now. 

Filling my toolbox.

"The Lord is my strength and song,..."
Exodus 15:2a

A couple of years ago at a Beth Moore Living Proof Live in Little Rock, AR, Beth's message on "What it takes to fulfill our ministry" confirmed so much of what God was doing in my life.
Beth Moore, Little Rock, 2011

Beth posed the question:

What would it take to be excellent
at what God has called me to do?

  Don't you just love when God does that?  It's like He is talking to you solely.  Her second point is what hit home for me: ACQUIRE the Appropriate Tools.  I had talked to Warren already about my thoughts to go back to school.  It wasn't just to have a degree, add stress to my life, or make money.  It was to have the "tools" necessary to go and do and be wherever God led.  If He wanted to take us to the deepest parts of India or the bush of Africa, I had "tools" that He could use.  If He wanted to send us as church planters one day, I had a "tool" He could use to reach families.  If He wanted to place me in a school to love children and their families (which I absolutely love and have for so many years!) , I was able.  I had the "tools."  And trust me, this "tool" has been costly and a sacrifice to obtain with a full time job and family.  The bags under my eyes don't lie.  But I will be honest, even now, in the thick of 18 hours of school work and working full time, I never cease to be amazed at how God brings me through day to day and week after week.  Alive.  Well.  Succeeding.  Blessing me with opportunities to talk about Jesus.

"My hope is in Thee."
Psalms 39:7b

He is always adding "tools" to my toolbox.  Just this past week I picked up passport papers for my family.  We have no plans.  No open doors.  A great interest.  But if He does open a door to an overseas mission trip opportunity, I want to be ready.

"And He said to them,
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
Mark 16:15

I want to "live" in front of my children the message we surrendered to the Lord as a family almost 15 years ago.  Whenever and whatever God.  We are our yours. 

"Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments."
Deuteronomy 7:9

So, I continue packing my toolbox with Bible Studies that challenge me daily to share Christ.  They press me to pray without ceasing and know the great I Am.  I will learn to love Hebrew and Greek words and how to keep idols out of my life.  I will pass up really cute hair when necessary,  in order to sit before His throne in that brown chair every morning.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

I want my toolbox packed with whatever tool He leads me to, so His ways can be made known.  Until that day.
"I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the course,
I have kept the faith;"
2 Timothy 4:7

*By the way, I left 4 of the candies in the bag.  I didn't want Warren to think I ate the whole bag :)