This is a journal entry from July, 1993. This was right after Alan had been laid off from the College Ministry position where we had spent the first 8 years of our marriage. Alan did not have a new position yet, Sean was 10 months old, and it was a very unsettling time. See the related blog entry HERE.
This is longer than I usually like to share – but it is a very meaningful story from a difficult time in my life.
Journal Entry • July 1993
I recently attended a NEWIM meeting. NEWIM stands for “Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry.” I thought the NEWIM meeting was going to be some boring meeting where a bunch of busy women got together and talked about more “to do’s.” And I am in no place to add to my plate. But I went anyway.
Once we got there, sat down and heard was Susie Kimes had to say, I realized why I was there. Susie and one of her board members, Luann, shared that they had gone on a retreat called “Oasis.” It was a time of being alone with God, praying, and fellowshipping with other women. This sounds pretty standard. But in the context of what Susie shared about the last year of her life, it was much deeper than that.
In October of 1992 Susie burned out. She shared that she had given her all and was empty. She was then serving from her emptiness. Yuck! She then went the “The Cove,” a Billy Graham retreat center in North Carolina. During that time she was filled by God in a way she labeled “renewal.” She realized that she must be filled by God and that her ministry was an overflow of His work in her. She then encouraged all of us to get away alone with God and get filled so that we may serve from a full heart, not out of our own emptiness.
WOW! And I thought I was going to a boring, “let’s get some things done” meeting. I was so encouraged to hear that the head of NEWIM had found the critical difference between doing stuff for God and God doing stuff in and through us.
I was eager to talk with Susie and Luann about their lives. But after the opening meeting, we were told that during lunch we would break into groups and discuss the various parts of the June 1994 Women’s Retreat with Jill Briscoe and Anne Graham Lotz. I didn’t know where to sit because I knew I was not going to volunteer for anything. Where will I be in June 1994? Anyway, I sat in Susie’s group, hoping to chat, but the conversation was only about registration.
The after lunch they immediately had a drama presentation. I thought my chances to talk to Susie and Luann were over. Little did I know how much the drama would hit me and lead into the very thing I needed.
A lady portrayed Miriam (Moses’ sister) on her death bed. There was also Miriam’s maidservant and a girl who danced during very emotional and symbolic monologues. It was amazing. I tried to stuff the tears for about 1/3 of the performance, but at a certain point I could not contain them anymore. I cried for the rest of the time.
Miriam recalled different times of her life. I will share the three that struck me the most.
She recalled the final plague of Egypt, the death of all the firstborn. She said that she could hear the cries and screams of the mothers out in the streets. She was compelled to open the door and look upon the horror. When she opened the door she was met with the eyes of a mother holding her dead child. As Miriam stood in the doorway, she felt a drop of blood hit her forehead. She was protected by the blood on the doorpost. This was the point I had to start crying. The emotion of being a mother and picturing that scene paired with the great price and sacrifice Jesus paid to keep me from death overwhelmed me.
I thanked Him for what He did on the cross and how much it cost Him.
Miriam recalled being out in the desert for so many years and being sick of manna. They longed for Egypt’s food.
I thought of my own yearning for something other than what God is providing. Even if what He has in the future is better, I still long for the “known” (Egypt) rather than the instability of the “unknown” (desert). I told God that I didn’t want to be ungrateful and I asked for forgiveness for not graciously accepting what He was providing.
Miriam recalled her “getting in God’s face” about Moses and how God struck her with leprosy. She was unclean and was placed outside the camp for seven days.
My situation is not the same but the emotions she expressed felt like my own. Her maidservant tried to encourage her that she was still near the camp and not far away. Miriam shared how that is the worst of all…to be just outside the camp. You could hear people talking, laughing, playing. But no one could touch her, help her, look at her, or even get her water. She said that “outside the camp” is the loneliest place of all.
I don’t want to be melodramatic, but in some ways this time of transition feels like we are just outside the camp. We see people serving and carrying on as usual, but it is not the same for us. We are not “in the middle of things” anymore. We don’t know where we are headed.
I haven’t really had a good cry since this whole thing started (Alan’s layoff). This must have been the time to purge. It sure felt good.
Back to Susie. The drama was over and so was the luncheon. I thought my chances were over. Karen, Carol and I were waiting for the restroom when Susie walks up to me, puts her hand on my arm and says, “So, what did you think?” Well, five words into thanking her for what she shared at the beginning and how the drama had touched me so deeply, I started to cry again. We spoke for about 10-15 minutes. I shared with her our journey the last few years and she encouraged me. Then she introduced me to her friend Jackie who just happened to be visiting that day. Jackie was a real kindred spirit. Although she was older and her life situation was different, we shared the same lesson. He is asking us if He is sufficient, no if, ands or buts. Things are not based on what we do but who we are. He is making us real.
Thank You, again, Lord for Susie and Jackie. You provided that day for me and I thank You. You are faithful and I will learn to receive from Your hand graciously.