A few weeks ago, Will and I drove our family to Kentucky to see my parents. I forgot just how good it felt to be home, where the smell of my mother’s fresh whole wheat bread welcomed us and wrapped around us comfortingly.
I walked through my mother’s garden with her, enjoying her presence and marveling at the perfect tomatoes and long rows of green beans set atop a green Kentucky hill.
The children ran and played in my parents’ large and gracious yard full of flowers and trees. They took a boat out on the pond and once they reached the middle of the pond, hopped off one by one into the water like frogs. My brothers set up a four-square game in their new shed, and we played until we were breathless in the heat. I taught my ten-year-old how to play ping-pong. After dark, even the adults ran around the yard screaming and laughing in a game of Kick the Can.
We sat at a long table laden with home-cooked food and ate and talked while the little ones banged their spoons and dropped morsels on the floor. Every meal was ended with singing together before the children ran off to play.
The final evening of our stay, all of us went boating on Nolan Lake. The evening was cool and clear and achingly beautiful.
The weekend was so surreal, the kind of simple joy and abundance and friendship that I had almost forgotten about. It made me want to go back to my roots.
My life now is so different from how I was raised. It’s been five years since Will and I bought a house in town and began the process of leaving the comfortable and familiar behind to follow Jesus, and since then have lived through a succession of painful losses and unimaginable gains.
I cannot understand God’s ways. They are both too hard and wonderful to understand.
We have helped people nobody else wanted to help, offering housing and appliances and money for utility bills simply because the love of God was in us and we wanted to help. Sometimes those people took advantage of us in ways that hurt me more than I want to admit.
However, there was the time I was in the check-out line at Dollar General when I received a message from a friend. “God has put in on my heart to buy you a new Bible,” she wrote. I struggled to hold myself together while buying my laundry soap and toilet paper. I didn’t want to explain to the clerk why I was crying over a pack of toilet paper!
I feel a constant gnawing loneliness and longing for my birth culture. I think my old friends have mostly forgotten me, but they are so much busier than I am so I can’t blame them. But I wish I knew that they still thought of us, just once in a while, and sent up a prayer to Jesus for us all.
But I also feel a constant sense of awe and gratitude at God’s provision through His people in our town. I had a minor surgery recently, and didn’t think of telling anyone about it. Somehow, ladies from the local church squirreled out the truth and meals started showing up at our door. We received the food with gratefulness, tasting their love and care in every bite.
How could God call one Mennonite family out of so many. Just one? Two big people and four little people out of hundreds and hundreds? Why should we be singled out while the rest enjoy a life of overflowing abundance?
Yet I know the warmth of love from my diverse ladies’ group. I know how it feels to pray, to cry, and to love across lines I did not know I could cross. I know what it means to bless and even more what it means to be blessed.
I do not understand God’s ways. Maybe I will never enjoy the things I grew up loving, things like getting together with family or friends Sunday evenings for ice cream, or growing a huge, productive garden, or having a haven in the country with animals to care for and dirt to play in. Maybe we will always be the ones who plant the fruit trees that someone else picks and the ones who go to places nobody else wants to go.
I don’t feel critical of the people living an idyllic life, or the people in town who took from us and ran. I mostly feel curiosity tinged with longing. What is God up to?
I don’t know. I don’t understand His ways.
But He knows me, and where He is leading our family.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Job 23:8-10 (ESV) emphasis mine
27 thoughts on “God’s ways”
In our house at the edge of town surrounded by “heathen” neighbors, far from our family and old friends, our family remembers and prays for y’all.
I also understand and frequently experience the homeless feeling of a displaced person. I see pictures of family gatherings, hear about barbecue chicken fundraiser dinners for their local Christian school, or old friends gathering for a birthday party, and I ache to experience those times too.
We know the names of people at ten of the twenty houses on our street now. We keep working to connect, taking time to chat with the old man dying next door (who sent Tootsie Rolls along for our children on our trip) or talking with the good ole boy on the other side about his fishing trips.
Sometimes I want to gather up my children and move to a quiet place in the country, with big trees and a long lane and privacy, a house set way back from the road with a holy garden and holy wash line. God is using intentional people in those settings to build His Kingdom, but for us, after living in town for six years, I’m not sure how we could live with our consciences if we hid away from the world.
When I feel sorry for myself because of this uncomfortable place to which God has called me, I remember missionaries who move halfway around the world to far less comfortable places–with snakes and squatty potties. Then I’m glad God called us here.
I laughed out loud at the comment about snakes and squatty potties! Thank God I haven’t been called to that…YET. And ugh, I do want that holy garden and holy wash line. But as you said, the conscience is a very real problem. I’m so glad God gives us grace to enjoy what we never thought we wanted and in the process brings us blessings we never dreamed of!
I do not know you, but your writing resonated deeply with me. This world is not my home, we’re strangers in a land that God has called us to, taking steps of faith – and faltering at times- but leaning on His everlasting arms.
Kari, I feel that “stranger” condition keenly. I’m thankful we have Jesus to walk beside us!
I always find your writings so deeply encouraging!
Feeling displaced definitely makes one anticipate heaven.
It certainly does. Thinking of you in your recent journey into a conservative Mennonite church! I admire you for being willing to lay down your life for others.
Rosina, I have NOT forgotten you!!! Nor will I! And I highly doubt your old friends have forgotten you either….in the busyness of life it’s easy to allow days and even years to slip by without taking time to stay in touch. And sometimes we don’t know how to get in touch until we stumble across your blog!!!!! I often remember the happy times picking strawberries!!! Especially while I’m in my own patch picking my beautiful red berries! Often I wish to be able to renew friendships with your family. I know God leads us all in different paths and to different places. And where He wants us is where we want to be. I really enjoy your blogs and find them encouraging and inspiring. I will try to remember to pray for you and your family more diligently. God bless you as you serve Him where He has called.
Those strawberry-picking days will never be forgotten! You were the best picker, making the rest of us jealous! 😃 But I remember how we talked and became friends through working together, and I’m so thankful for all the time we spent together! Your family has always been kind to us, and I pray God will bless you all in return.
Rosina dear, what an awesome read. I don’t often get tears when reading but even now I strain to see the page as I wipe them away. Finally it seems someone in our extended family understands our journey. Some things were different in detail yet the heart the same. We were the first Mennonites in Custer County when we moved to Westcliffe Colorado in 1991. We were the first Mennonite family to live in Canon City in 1999. Your letter timing was so timely as yesterday and today I spent most of the day either on the phone or stopping business’s just to see how our friends are doing. I cried on the way today when realizing how hard and how wonderful our life has been. I remember in 2004 that Dolores met a lady at Walmart and in that short time she invited Becky to church. Up until several years ago she never missed but even while moving 2 hours north to Denver she still makes the trip at least once a month. The last Sunday she was here she reminded me of meeting Dolores at Walmart 15 years ago. We thought our lives were changed but Becky declares hers was changed. Did she ever become a member? NO, so what! In the early days of church in CAÑON, we had four families on staff for New Horizons and Choice Books that had Mennonite roots but 60% of attendees were from town. We had five non M foster families for NHM of which four families became members. ThiS morning, which happens every Tuesday morning since last October, twas another absolutely meaningful 5:30-7:00 Bible Study with five other young men the community, the most stretching bunch that only you can understand. I had to learn to love the pony tail or tattoos or the brother that grew up Pentecostal and the one that’s been set free of drugs for six months but was sorely tempted during a hard time in the last week but found that his focus on Jesus with a grateful heart for the difficult week changed it all and he didn’t do another joint. Wow, and these guys are my best friends. So glad!! I do try to have at least two breakfast’s a week and sometimes four to mentor and encourage. Now would I say that publically, no, but you understand. And you understand the loneliness and giving of personal resources to unexplainable situations because it was the right thing to do. It took way long to learn that life is not about “us” but about them. That revelation became so freeing! PTL
Soo I wish we had a place like you described so well in Kentucky but we do have a half acre, grass, trampoline and a guest apartment that your whole family could stay and enjoy. We’d even provide free passes to the Royal Gorge and many other wonderful things to do and see. Let us know when we can your Colorado experience for you! Thanks for your post! Blessings galore, Uncle Loren, DPM
To say that your family is awesome is an understatement. I haven’t met many people with as much faith and willingness to follow Jesus at all costs (even to moving across the globe) as you all have. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story here. It is so inspiring and makes me want to hear more! And that offer to come to CO sounds awfully good… 🙂
I am encouraged by your blog. I grew up in a Mennonite home experiencing love and sound teaching , part of a city church, rubbing shoulders with the children there. Married a Christian man from a large broken family. Now I feel my mission is to be salt & light before them. But God has also BLESSED us with a special child 40 yrs. ago and my mission field has grown. Blooming where I am planted. Christ didn’t say our path would be easy but HE gives us the strength for the day. Today I go on without my husband of just over 50 years trying to focus on whomever He places in my life today.
Awww, I’m sorry you lost your husband! That makes me sad. May God give grace and strength. Hugs!
Thanks for sharing your heart. For sure we are all on different journeys> But God directs and cares for us all around the world. Even living in the middle of a Mennonite community one can feel very disconnected from the mainstream life style. Blessings as you bloom where God has planted you!
You are right. Following Jesus can be a lonely road even in the middle of family and friends. Thank you and God bless you!
Our Dear Niece and Family, Thank you for your beautiful post, coming from the inner cry of your heart. We understand, following your calling has the price tag of Mark 8:34-38, Luke 14-26-34, Matthew 10 : 38-42. The reward of faithfulness is coming! Even as in Matthew 10:42 giving a cup of cold water, thank you for following the call! Many of our close,friends are missionaries on the field. Why? We understand their lonliness. In my little quiet room is the picture of Jesus praying alone in the garden.He understands lonliness as no one else. During the night ( when we both wake up in the night it is usually a call to prayer) as Glenn and I were praying together, for our family and also for friends,especially those going through hard times. There were also tears. Why? We understand lonliness. Yet the preciousness of following where He leads is peace and inner joy beyond measure. It is not the road most traveled, yet it is the best way! Thank you Will, Rosina and Family! Blessings, peace and strength to you! You are precious and loved.
With love, caring, and understanding, Anna
Aunt Anna, you have long been one of my heroes. You and Uncle Glenn have honored Jesus for many years by quietly and humbly serving Him where He placed you. Everyone who is with you smells the fragrance of Jesus. Thank you for the verses–they are some of my favorites! And thank you for your ministry of prayer. God bless you!
Oh Rosina! You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you and have been reading your blog for a couple years now. Many years back, I shared a dorm at CBS with your older sister. For some unknown reason I felt drawn to what she told me about you. I mailed you a letter and we were pen pals for a while, and then drifted apart as we got older and busier.
My husband and I also have deliberately stepped out of the Mennonite subculture we grew up in. Sometimes I feel too lonely and I just want to go back. But then I realize that if I did go back I would not be the same person I used to be when I lived there. It does seem hard when other people are sending their children to the church school with their cousins while I am weighing the pros and cons of public school vs homeschooling. It’s hard to know I could be dropping off my children at a friend’s house instead of taking them all with me to my dentist appointment. And it would be an amazing luxury for my children to have more outdoor space to play. Something that God has been showing me recently, though, is that His gifts to me are not less then His gifts to those whose lives are more comfortable then mine. Different is not always less then. With loneliness and challenging circumstances has come spiritual and intellectual growth that I could not have been gotten any other way. That too, is a good gift from God.
Thank you for your blog. It’s like getting a letter from you every time and it eases my loneliness.
I remember you, Sarah, as a quiet and intelligent person who both thinks and feels deeply. It’s so good to hear from you again!
You’re right that going back to our former settings isn’t a cure-all. We spent several months back in our old community this past winter, and as much as I enjoyed seeing family and friends again, I realized how much Will and I have changed over the past five years. That in itself can bring loneliness.
We sent our oldest to public school this year, which is not something I ever thought I would do. But with three others in school, plus our foster child, I didn’t think I could handle four grades at once. I long for the option of a good private school! However, my son is doing surprisingly well so far, and he has less than a quarter mile to walk to school. 🙂 God’s grace can go even to places where we never imagined it could.
I so identify with the lack of babysitting. I sure wish I could exchange services with you! But I know God is faithful to care for us. Thank you for reminding me that His gifts are always good! Many blessings on your journey, dear friend!
It’s special to be remembered. Thank you.
Two of ours are going to public school this year. I have learned that public schools vary greatly from place to place and even from classroom to classroom. I hope your school works out well for you. It’s great that he can walk to school!
I’m old enough now to see so many pieces/seasons of my life all link together. They’re all a part of forming and shaping me for me to fulfill the purpose and plan of God while here on earth! Doesn’t take away the hard, but gives peace for me to know that! Blessings to you where you walk!
That greater plan is what I am trying to believe in as I live each day for Jesus. Thank you for being such a blessing to me–I think of you every Wednesday evening when I have my ladies’ Bible study! 😉
I identify with so much of this, Rosina. I bless you for being brave and courageous and stepping out of your comfort zone. I know you are impacting the lives of those around you in so many positive ways! Much grace and peace to you in the moments of loneliness and missing all the familiar things that feel so comfortable.
You understand, probably even more fully than I do. Blessings, sweet friend!
Wow! Inspiring! Blessings, Glenn
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