The plan was that I was going to go to Uganda and teach a women’s Bible study every morning. Finally I was leaving the arena of working with kids at church and was going to do “big people” work. It felt like arriving.
End of the story: I stunk at that. Felt like one of those nightmares where you’re floundering on a stage in front of a group of people, except it actually happened.
But as I remember back to those life-changing 10 days in Kampala years ago, what comes to mind is the unexpected evening work we did. Open-air street preaching is what you could call it, and we girls would give our testimonies in front of the crowds that gathered. I didn’t see that coming and scrambled my thoughts together on what I would say about my relationship with God.
Again, I thrilled at the thought of speaking to adults. I was finally growing up and doing big things.
Except there was that first night that I climbed the terrifying ladder (in a skirt!) to the makeshift stage, and the masses in front of me looked just like my old Wednesday night crowd at church, except with dark skin. A bunch of little kids plopped down in front of me, and only a few adults circled the perimeter.
Little kids. Again?
And again and again and again.
Except you know what? I didn’t stink at talking to them. Kids I knew how to do, so I grabbed their attention with stories about my dad and transitioned to who God is. It was electrifying.
The Lord put those kids faces in front of me night after night and said, “They matter to me. Their souls matter to me just as much as the big souls do. This is your wheelhouse, and I want you to stay put.”
So Uganda turned out to be nothing like all the plans I had made and everything like a huge surprise and a cementing of my true calling.
Now I’ve got my passport renewed, and I’m heading to Israel in a few days, except this time I’m smart. This time I’m going with open hands, and my only prayer is, Lord, what do you want this to look like? What do you want to teach me on this trip? What good can I do while I’m overseas?
This time I’m ready to be surprised.
Fact is, my mind has already grown leaps and bounds in regard to Israel, and my heart has fallen in love with the place and the people. And what if this is it, before I even leave snowy Kalispell for the sunny beach of Tel Aviv? What if God has already done the big work?
I don’t know, and that’s where I’m staying put.
Not knowing what God has planned for me is the place to be –holding loosely to my imaginings.
In my suitcase I’ve put two spiral notebooks (isn’t paper wonderful), and those notebooks are full of blank pages where I’m going to write down what I learn on this trip. Those empty lines seem like a good picture of our souls, wouldn’t you say? Waiting for God to write and write and write our story. An adventure waiting for a pen and a willing heart.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)
You know what? The week after I get back from Israel–the trip of a lifetime–I’m going to jump into the work of a lifetime: on Wednesday night I’ll pick up my Bible and head to church, where I’ll teach dozens of kids about the Scripture and the God of Israel who invites us in.
So a question for you today, because I know you’re imagining all kinds of life for yourself. What if you open your hands instead and say, Lord, what do you want my life to look like? Let him run with his imagination. Open your heart and mind to be surprised.
NOTE: My friends, as you can imagine it’s going to be a few weeks before I can blog again. I appreciate so many of you writing to tell me you’ve said a prayer for me regarding this huge trip, and that means so much! I can hardly wait to come back and tell you about my grand adventures with the preacher in the Lord’s country. Meanwhile, look for pictures on Instagram. I’ll chat with you again when I return from the land of pita and hummus. 🙂