Updated: May 2, 2019
I always have loved being outside and exploring the landscapes that create a majestic canvas that only our Powerful Creator could have assembled together. This week is our first year anniversary of us flying off into the wild of Brazil to start a new lifestyle. Through this past year, I think about the last time the 4 of us visited my most favorite place to soak in creation. My heart literally flutters when I look at pictures from this one night adventure we had with our family.
About 2 weeks before our big move, Tim and I had talked with the kids about our favorite outdoor adventures that we wanted to take on. We had gone kayaking in Charleston with some dolphins and now it was time to go to Max Patch, NC. Tim and I had ventured there for our anniversary weekend in November of 2017 and tested out our arctic sleeping bags on a 14 degree night. We had set up camp on the bald spot so that we could have the perfect view.
I remember waking up the next morning, Tim was brewing coffee over the crackling fire (while he admired my breath-taking bed head) and I was just consumed by God’s power and His mind blowing creativity as I stared down the sun rising to warm my nose. I could see hues of indigo, violet, grey and bursts of golden orange dancing on Mountain ridges that span across North Carolina and Tennessee.
Here we were in April, and We decided to pack up our 2 kids and Rio (our hound mix) for we were beyond eager for them to experience this beautiful place. It was much warmer than our November visit, but we felt the crispy cold when the wind picked up. What an interesting experience this was. I journaled about it just 2 days after our small adventure on Max Patch. Before you read the words from my journal, I want you to know something. Just 3 weeks before we moved to Brazil, The Holy Spirit kept me in Psalm 18 every single day. I dissected all 50 verses repetitively over that 3 week period, and I KNOW He used that chapter to lift my eyes for the battles that lie ahead. At the time of this trip to Max Patch, I was in my Psalm 18 season.
Have you realized that the Holy Spirit will direct your prayers and attention to specific scriptures to prepare you for something you are facing currently or will be facing very soon?
Several bits from that chapter stuck out to me and I still go to them weekly:
I called to the Lord and was saved from my enemies (3)
He brought me out to a spacious place, because He delights in me (19)
Lord, you light my lamp and illuminate my darkness (28)
He clothes me with strength and makes my way perfect (32)
He trains my hands for war (34)
You make a spacious place beneath me for my steps (36)
You have given me the shield of your salvation (35)
Because of you, Lord, I pursue and overtake my enemies, I crush
them and they fall beneath my feet (37,38)
The words from my journal from April 2017:
Our first and last visit as a fam to Max Patch. Amazing sunset, why do I feel the Holy Spirit so strongly there? The Holy Spirit is everywhere.
That night in our tent, the wind started picking up. The corners of our tent would collapse a few minutes and then violently pop back up. But that wind was relentless, beating down so powerfully on us in our only shelter at the time. The howling sounded like a pack of wolves or bears was surrounding us. By 3am, 5 of us (including our dog, Rio) were sitting like prairie dogs in that small tent, contemplating if this wind would come to an end. Keep in mind, we had not looked outside the tent, we had no idea what was out there or what the conditions were like. After much debate, we all decided to pray for God to stop this wind, and then we could just all get back to sleep(the tent is still collapsing and popping up). Avery prayed first, then Tim, and then myself. I just knew that God would stop this wind and it would be a great example of His power to our kids, especially with us about to make a BIG move to another country. That is not how this played out.
The wind continued, Rio was trembling in fear, and the entrance to our tent ripped off the zipper track and busted wide open. At this point, our faces were like waves of skin being assaulted by this violent wind. However we all gasped in amazement at the sky! There were no lights for almost 30 miles and no clouds in the sky,so the stars and moon were vividly sparkling! For a brief moment, everything paused as the 4 of us poked our heads out and gazed upward, we had forgotten about the issue we faced. We refocused and then the debate started, do we go to the car? If so, do we go the longer way which would be about a mile hike up a steep trail that would lead us to another wide open bald spot and then to the car? Or do we go downhill, only about ¼ of a mile and through the thick forest to the car? The kids were getting emotional about this debate, I remember saying to all of us, “What if this is what living in Brazil is going to feel like emotionally and spiritually?”, Tim and I opted for the longer route . Shorter and faster routes are not always the best way! This was Spring and there were plenty of bears, coyotes, and even bob cats out here. Coyotes in this area have been known to attack small children, on this night, Grady was 5 and Avery was 10.
We strapped on our packs and headlamps, stepped out into the darkness, walked in a pack, and held tightly to each other as we prayed for protection. (As I re-read that previous sentence, I cannot help but think that this is what being a believer is all about!) We made that very steep climb, walking against the fierce wind and I was thinking, Why didn’t God just stop the wind? He has the power to.
When we were debating in the tent about what to do, Grady and Avery were terrified and were content with sitting in that broken and battered tent while being assaulted by the wind until the sun came up. This was because they didn’t want to go out into the darkness and into a wide open area where there was no physical shelter around us. Yet, as we marched up the steep climb, they marched confidently and did not utter a word or cry. We made it to the car unharmed and in awe at the clear sky we had been under.
Maybe God wanted us to face that fear of being vulnerable and walking through the darkness? As we walked to the car, He literally did bring us out to a spacious place! And once we made it to that spacious place, we all felt courageous and peaceful. We are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care, He did clothe us with strength and He did make our way perfect.
God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to- I believe that this is for many reasons. He does this to strengthen our spiritual muscles and faith and he also does this to help us face a fear and clearly see the strength we possess because of Him living in us.
Today marks a year for our family of living here in Brazil and doing ministry full time. Have we walked through darkness? YES. Have we felt fear? YES. Loneliness? Absolutely.
Who said following Jesus and His calling would be easy? He didn’t.
Have we had to step out of comfort and brokenness and TRUST that we are protected and will be safe? YES.
No, it has not all been easy and I would not want to take a moment of what we have experienced away. But following the His guidance leads us to wide open spaces where we are covered in peace and freedom.
HIS POWER, HIS CREATIVITY, HE is your shelter, He calls you to walk through the darkness, and He TRAINS you for battle.