God’s promise to my mother

From the day we got married to today, Ray and I have committed to studying one chapter of the Bible together every week night. For the most part, with the exception of one of us being away from home or nights we are too tired to see straight, we’ve been faithful to that commitment and have since managed to finish the entire New Testament and a few Old Testament books together. We’re currently working our way through Exodus, and I happened to catch the itch to blog about it, so here goes…

God keeps His promises

One of the most remarkable things about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is that it demonstrates that God’s promises don’t necessarily need to come to pass in your lifetime to be fulfilled. As far as God is concerned, once He promises something, He doesn’t take His words back. Any word He’s spoken will not return to Him void. It will accomplish what He sent it to do before it returns to the Father.

Even if we fail to keep up our end of the bargain, as human typically tend to do, He is faithful to keep His word because He’s not human. No, He demonstrates that His promises, just like His very nature, supersede time. He can give whatever He promised you to your great, great grandchildren and still consider that promise fulfilled. You may have disqualified yourself from receiving the promise, but that doesn’t nullify the deal… it just postpones it.

Take for instance the Israelites. Though God was undoubtedly aware that they would eventually lose out on their opportunity to enter the promised land, He still made every effort to keep them from missing it. Why? Because He had made a promise to Abraham. He could have led the people through Philistine territory, the shorter route, but He knew they would turn back if they faced war too soon (Exodus 13:17-18). Pharaoh came to recapture them, but the Lord himself stood between the two armies while the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Throughout their journey through the wilderness, we continually see God say to Himself, “These people are stiff-necked and I can tolerate them no longer… BUT I made a promise to Abraham. For his sake, I’ll continue on with them.” On and on and on, the story continues and God keeps giving these guys chance after chance to be the people to cross the threshold of the promised land.

We know the story. They didn’t.

But their children did. The promise was still fulfilled.

Jeannette Michelle Curtis

Now let me take the liberty of comparing these stories to my relationship with my mother. If you didn’t get the chance to know my mother before she passed, let me describe her a bit for you. Nearly six feet tall, Jeannette Michelle Curtis possessed a very commanding demeanor and equally strong personality. Her fiery glance alone could be enough to make a child fear for his life when she caught his attention by snapping her fingers at him in the middle of a church service, but her heart was full of love and the kind of warmth that always caused her to be found with kids underfoot. She was passionate about a lot of things, but she especially had a love for the arts, children, worship, prayer, and Africa.

My mother was a nationally known poet and playwright (she’s even made the “Who’s Who” list) while she was in college, but when she decided to pursue family instead of a national tour, she made sure to utilize whatever resources my father’s hometown could give her, and she continued putting on small plays here and there.

My parents both were known throughout the city as Mama Bear and Papa Bear because of a children’s program they started called “The Good News Bears”. It had quite a long run and it reached a great number of kids, but then they got into full-time ministry as they became pastors of their own church, and though they still set apart Saturday nights for kid’s church, they weren’t able to pursue children’s ministry to the extent that they had in the past.

The list of interests and dreams my mother had could go on for days, but I’ll add just one more.

For as long as I can remember, my mother had a fascination with Africa. Whenever African evangelists would come to Salina, Mom would not only be in attendance, but she would offer to host them so she could pick their brains. As a child I benefited from this greatly, especially since one of the evangelists we had hosted since I was 14 was my husband’s uncle James Murunga. Whenever he came to town, I would ask him questions about Kenya and the Bible until my mom sent me to bed.

I mention these things, specifically the Africa bit, because I want to give some context for what comes next.

I am my mother’s child

Let’s start with my first trip to Africa. It was 2006, and I was traveling to South Africa with Teen Mania Ministries. Everyone had to meet in Texas for training before heading over, so my dad and youngest brother drove me to Kansas City to catch my plane. We stayed the night in a hotel, and in the morning my dad told me about a dream he had. In his dream my mother, who had passed away almost two years prior, met him in the airport. He was so excited to see her alive and wanted to bring her back home and show everyone she was alive. But mom insisted that she needed to get on that plane because she was called to Africa. She got on the plane and was gone.

My father told me that he felt like the dream was assuring him that I was carrying out my mother’s dream and that the trip wasn’t just about me fulfilling my own dreams, but hers as well.

I believe my dad was right about that dream and its application to my life, but I have also come to believe that it’s even more than that.

See, I always felt like I was born with so much favor on my life. People would tell me all the time that there was something “set apart” about me, and both they and I had myself convinced that it was because God was just really into me. As true as that may be (I mean, He’s into everyone of course), I now realize that the favor I’ve lived in has really had nothing to do with me, but more about God keeping His promise to my mother through me. She was my Abraham and as her only daughter I became the recipient of her covenant to God. I’m not saying my other siblings haven’t received benefits from her and my father – by the way – I’m just saying that God knit my heart to my mother’s in a way that I can’t comprehend. It feels like every day I find her when I look in the mirror, I hear her in my voice, and sense her passions fueling the fire of my own.

God gave my mother a lot of dreams, and it seems that the life I’m living today is the fulfillment of so many things she started. Like our ministry (The Joshua Blueprint) combines children’s ministry with the arts and worship as we train kids to use their talents to glorify God. My heart has also been for Africa, and now for the past two years I’ve been living here, getting the chance to love on some of the people my mom’s heart yearned to meet. My dad also told me when my Nashville-based EP came out that he cried the first time he listened to it because making an album was something my mom had always wanted to do, and he could hear her voice as I sang. Once again he affirmed that I was fulfilling a dream my mother had.

This has probably been a long stream of rambling, but my point is that I know the Lord has given me specific dreams and promises apart from my mother, but I just feel like this perspective has brought me to a new place of humility. No longer can I look at what God has done or what He’s doing in my life and believe that it’s because I’m anyone great in the kingdom. No, I am the least. It’s because of my mother’s relationship with God that I was set apart from birth and led into the life that I’m living now. It’s because God made a promise to her and for whatever reason, He decided to fulfill it through me and maybe even my children. I know our kids will be blessed because of the path their grandmother paved for them, and I thank God for giving me the mother He did and I pray that my husband and I are able to carry out her legacy to the fullest. I know she deserves it, and apparently God thinks so too.

This journey is our own

Comparison is a lot like the game Spoons. You can never keep your eyes fixed only on what’s in your hand, and someone always ends up getting hurt (at least when you play Spoons with my family).

Valentine’s Day woes

A few days after Valentine’s Day I posted a blog at She Is Set Apart about the way the lover’s holiday used to cause problems for me as a single person and still does even though I’m now married.

When I was single, using Facebook on Valentine’s Day was difficult because everyone was either posting pictures of their amazing gifts – making me feel bad because I didn’t have any, getting engaged – reminding me that I didn’t have someone to propose to me, or sending me “cheer up, you don’t suck that bad… at least Jesus loves you” posts – which I guess were meant to encourage me as a single woman.

Now that I’m married all I see is competition, oneupmanship. Hundreds of women claiming their husband is the best and sharing all the ways he spoiled her, making hundreds of other women instantaneously lift their expectations of their husband so that when he comes home with a single rose and box of chocolates, she’s looking at him like “That’s it? You hate me, don’t you?”

Long story short, the conclusion I came to on the blog post and in life is that my jealousy is an indicator that my Christian love tank is probably running on low. If I had the love of Christ living inside of me like it should, I should be rejoicing with my sisters and brothers because of the gifts they received. There is no room for jealousy and comparison in love.

Same story, different season

You may be wondering what my point is considering Valentine’s Day was over a month ago. Well, I bringt it up because the comparison struggle has started again but for a totally different reason: babies.

Since we had our miscarriage, just about every single friend that I have back home has announced that they’re pregnant or they’re already pregnant or they recently had a baby. I kid you not, this is true of at least 80% of my close friends.

It can be really hard to think that I was supposed to be on that ship, fell overboard, and now am treading water as the ship sails on. Without me.

As I scroll through my news feed, here we go again with a million baby pictures and birth announcements. It would be so easy for Ray and I to become upset because we had gotten so close to becoming parents, and sometimes I think we both do feel a twinge of envy, but aside from learning how to love others and truly rejoice with them in these wonderful gifts that God is giving them, God has really been giving us a new perspective to tread these murky waters.

Breathing under water

See, at this point in our lives we may not be on our way to parenthood and we don’t know when God will give us the go ahead with that, but with what felt like a tidal wave crashing over us, we’ve discovered that the undercurrent is actually pulling us deeper into our dreams. At this point in our lives we are able to pursue all that God puts on our hearts with total abandonment. The Joshua Blueprint has become our baby.

We’re in a similar position to where I was as a single person. Because I wasn’t in a relationship I was able to get involved in numerous ministries, go on lots of mission trips, and mentor a lot of kids. Now that I’m married I’ve lost some of that freedom, but I’ve discovered new potential in the partnership I have with my husband. Now, as one unit, we can dive into all that God has set before us and accomplish more together than I ever could on my own. The beauty of it all is that we can maintain this perspective through every phase that we’ll go through in life. As we begin to build our family we’ll gain revelation on how we can continue to pursue what God puts on our hearts but in a different way. My friend Kimberly Huffman has a great post about what that looks like as a mother of seven on the mission field. You can check it out here.

That being said, every phase of life looks different. We’re only in the second phase right now and we don’t necessarily plan to be in this phase as long as I stayed in the single phase, but who knows? Maybe God will keep us here for a while so we can spend more time branching out and experiencing new foundational aspects of His vision for us.

Whatever His plan is, our hearts say yes.

2015: a year of rest

Without going into the age old description of how horrible the human race is at keeping new year’s resolutions, I still believe that it’s important to at least set them. I could turn this into a “10 ways to keep your resolutions this year” post, but frankly hundreds of other bloggers are already doing that, and you would probably want to get that kind of advice from someone who has actually kept their resolution longer than a month.

“Not I,” says I.

Hold me accountable, please

But I will say that accountability is probably one of the biggest factors I’ve found to help me stick to my resolutions. Back in my single days, most sessions I had with accountability partners were more like confessionals. Instead of really pushing each other to keep going, we would just gather to confess how we were failing. Thanks to my friend Dana, I realized that that’s not accountability. Accountability is when you ensure that the other person is sticking to what they said they would do. Yes, we should confess our failings, but if that’s all we’re going to do, we’re not helping each other at all.

In that wise, Ray has been a great support for me. Leave it to the person who is around you 24/7 to constantly call you out when you’re “cheating”. We’re big believers in goal setting, so we’ve been practicing this whole resolution keeping thing throughout the year. I’m hoping that this year we can continue to help each other make our resolutions stick.

I will rest in you

Though we’ve created a list of new year’s resolutions related to our family, ministry, and business, we have one overarching resolution to govern them all: rest.

Just to clarify, we’re not talking about the kind of rest that means to take time for yourselves, relax, and temporarily forget about the chaos of life. We’re talking about the kind of rest that is totally aware of the chaos but remains rooted and grounded in faith. The kind of rest that says “Even in the midst of this storm, I know God’s got this so I don’t have to be anxious.” You know, the kind of rest that allowed Jesus to sleep on a boat that was being violently tossed by the sea while his disciples were nearly at the brink of insanity.

This is the kind of rest that we want to live in for the rest of our lives, but especially as we step into this new year.

Here comes the rain again

See, as this year begins so will an increased amount of craziness for the Wasike tribe.

In just a few days from now, our ministry The Joshua Blueprint will officially begin at Mattaw, which means lots of curriculum writing, lesson planning, three day weekly classes, and of course trying to match the energy level of nearly 50 students.

Joshua Blueprint Dance

We’ve also started a photography and videography business in Kitale that specializes in documentaries for missionaries (among other things), so we will spend most weekends and our off days from Mattaw working on things for the business.

Wasike Creations Interview

On top of all of that we’re planning a trip to the States in August, saving up for a vehicle, and trying again at some point for a baby.

But praise God for that blessed assurance

This would normally be the point where ordinarily my right eye would begin to twitch involuntarily, but that’s where the resolution comes in:

If no one hires us for the next three months, we will choose to live in rest.

If we find ourselves working more than sleeping, we will choose to live in rest.

If the classes turn out differently than expected, we will choose to live in rest.

If our trip to the States is delayed or denied, we will choose to live in rest.

If the conception of a baby occurs in the middle of it all, we will choose to live in rest.

Though we pray that God brings us times of refreshing when we can take breaks and allow our hearts to be rejuvenated, our greatest prayer is that as we keep our minds on Christ and our trust in him, he will keep us in perfect peace. Thankfully, because he’s already promised in his word that he will do just that, all that is left for us to do is rest.

Five loaves, two fish, and other miracles (pt. II)

Previously on “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World with the Wasike Tribe”…

Ray and S’ambrosia were finally able to wed after nearly $1,000  of visa expenses,  9 months of waiting, and 1 wrecked car.  By the ever abounding grace of God and the generous support of friends, the impossible was made possible.

(If you missed the last episode, you can catch up here.)

On this week’s episode…

The plan was simple: get married, sell everything I owned, use that money and wedding gift money for plane tickets, find a new home in Kenya, get a new job to work towards paying off student loans, start an organization, and… okay, so in hindsight, maybe the plan wasn’t so simple. Nevertheless, with starry eyes and high hopes, we continued the pursuit of our goals.

Thanks to the help of many amazing friends and family members, my costs for the wedding were minimal. Good thing, because my bank account had become used to being trapped in an empty, cold, dark room, and that season was no exception. We figured the money we got from wedding gifts would cover the cost of our plane tickets, but we ended up being $200 short. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, that was before we realized we had bills to pay before packing up shop, so before we knew it, over half of the money was gone. Part D of phase 3 of our plan was to leave the States from New York after spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Maryland with my mom’s side of the family. The bus tickets would take the majority of the little money we had left, but we decided to use the last of our money to at least secure our tickets to the east coast. We had no idea how we would get to Kenya, but at least we knew we’d be one step closer.

Expect the unexpected

So the wedding money didn’t cover our plane tickets, as we originally hoped it would, but I still had furniture and household items to sell. Surely we would get some money there.

Surely we did not.

No one should ever let me price items for their garage sale if they actually want to make money, because I will sell everything for at least half of what I should and still believe I’m overcharging. Even so, selling some of the bigger items in the home brought in a little cash, but when it came time for the actual yard sale, we barely sold anything. Apparently people were just waiting until I posted that I was giving away all that was left, because droves of people showed up that day leaving nothing but a single box of odds and ends. On top of that, selling my car could have made us at least $1,000 (the cosmetic damage could easily be fixed), but I had the conviction that because we had received so many free blessings via the wedding, we should give just as freely. A friend pointed me to a man who was in need of a car, and the evening before we left town, we surprised him with his very own car… for free. As happy as we were to bless someone who was so deserving of a vehicle, we did go back to our empty house and contemplate our own predicament.

Did we just give away our plane ticket money?

We really needed to pray some more.

Answered prayers in mysterious ways

Well, the time came for us to skedaddle, but before we left, we spent the evening having dinner with my family for obligatory farewells. We never mentioned that we only had like $400 in our pockets. No one asked. Why would they? Who in their right mind would pack up to move for another country without having all the necessary funds in place?

As we were leaving the restaurant, I received a text from some good family friends asking where I was. They met us before we got in the car to give us $200. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had put out a silent “fleece” before God asking for a sign that the step of faith we were taking was actually something we should be doing. He asked for a monetary miracle. The gift that night did more for us than contribute to the small pot of money we had for airfare; it gave us an incredible boost of hope.

The next morning, as we prepared to leave, we got another surprise as we discovered that I had almost double the amount of my apartment deposit coming back to me. According to the landlord, I had overpaid at some point, so a good chunk of change was added to the pot.

Before we went to Maryland, we planned a mini road trip through Topeka and Kansas City to visit with friends. By the time we left Topeka we were another $200 richer, thanks to a friend who said he wanted to bless us. We only needed another $200 to completely cover the cost of both of our tickets.

Arriving in Maryland, we were positive that it was smooth sailing from then on because my aunt told me that since they weren’t able to fly out to our wedding (everything was too last minute to book flights), they would give us some money. For the week that we were with them, they put us up in a hotel. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon, so this was such a sweet blessing for us and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Spending time with family I hadn’t seen for years was equally satisfying for my soul. It had been a long time since I had felt such warmth in a family gathering, and it made me so happy to see how well received Ray was by everyone. It was like they had known him for years. My heart was overflowing with that slap-happy kind of giddiness. Things couldn’t have been better.

Enter the plot twist…

That happiness came to a screeching halt the night before we were to leave Maryland for New York, because I realized that the money we were supposed to receive had been spent on the hotel and we weren’t going to make our goal. I thought the only way to meet it was to sell my beloved guitar. My aunts, aware of my plans to sell my guitar, questioned me about our flight plans, and when I hesitantly admitted that we didn’t actually have anything solidified, the fury of my mom’s sisters was ignited! We had a series of long, stern talking to’s, and then they took it upon themselves to help us cover the rest of the money.

I was so ashamed to have looked so immature in front of my family, but my heart was also incredibly encouraged. Without going into detail, my immediate family’s ability to communicate properly was very poor even when I lived in the same city, so I knew that communication would be pretty much nonexistent when I moved over 8,000 miles away. Thus far, my suspicions have been confirmed. Receiving those lectures from my aunts meant so much to me because it showed me that they actually cared about me. They wanted phone numbers and contact information for Ray’s family, they wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed, and they wanted to make sure that we had a proper plan for when we reached Kenya. I could see my mom in every action they made that night, and it spoke volumes of love to my heart. I know God could have easily provided that last bit of money without anyone knowing our predicament, but I truly believe things happened the way they did so my heart could receive a little healing… healing I didn’t even know I needed.

How much more will your heavenly Father give?

The next morning was my uncle’s birthday, and he was ultimately the one that gave us the final $200 we needed for the tickets. He also sat us down and lectured us (who knew I would grow to love lectures so much?) and then closed by commending us on our faith. He shared how encouraged he was by us and the way we just packed up and left home even though we had no idea if or how the money would come. It was quite a stirring word of encouragement, and all the tears I had pent up trying to be a big girl in front of everyone took nose dives down my face. My family prayed with us, helped us book the tickets (with the help of some of my cousins), and sent us on our way.

All of the money that we had went to the tickets, so we had no extra cash for post-departure. We got to New York to spend the night with Ray’s uncle before our flight left, and as he dropped us at the airport, he handed us another $200, not knowing that we were broke or anything about the journey we’d been on to that point.

Let’s do this thing together

In the last post on our faith journey, I shared that the lesson I learned was that sometimes the negative events we face in life are simply blessings in disguise. I would say that is still very much true here, but I also came away with the understanding that a faith journey isn’t something you’re supposed to do alone. Maybe it was pride or maybe it was immaturity, but I believed that we could get to Kenya without having to share our story with anyone. I knew God would provide, so there was no need to reach out to anyone else. The response of my family, when they found out the truth, not only broke down some emotional barriers in my heart, but it helped me to understand that you don’t pursue faith in spite of the ones you love, but you pursue faith with the ones you love.

To tell the truth, the emotional pain I had hidden in my heart was because of a family member acting on faith in spite of the rest of us. He made a big decision and told us God told him to do it and then left us wondering where we fit into God’s plan. I had no idea that I was doing the same thing. I have since resolved to be more transparent about where I am in my faith journey, especially with those nearest to me (hence this blog), and I pray that everyone who reads this will also be encouraged to let others into their faith walks and allow them to help carry the load.