One of my clearest memories from my seven years in East Asia is lying inside a nomad tent, under a blue tarp, while rain gently drummed my entire body. I was alone—alone in the sense that there was no one like me for miles and miles around.
Baby yaks stirred within arms reach on one side, and a family of nomads with wild hair snored on the other. How did a girl from the suburbs of Minnesota get here? I thought.
It was a feeling of elation, as I had long yearned to live among this unreached people group. But it was also a feeling of, “Well, this is kind of an unpleasant situation.”
I mean, I never thought that yak hair tents might not be waterproof. Or that the floor of the tent might actually be nothing more than the muddy ground. Or that there would be feces. Lots of it. Right next to me.
One thing I did know was that whether this moment was a fulfillment of a dream or just an uncomfortable night, it was God who had led me to this moment, to this place, to this circumstance.
A few years later, I had a similar experience. This time, I was staying in a picturesque American home: wrap around porch, espresso machine, beds with quilts and central air. A colicky newborn who never stopped crying, despite every herculean effort, and a sick toddler with seemingly endless medical needs were increasingly becoming my sole focus.
Cleaning up puke and feeling nauseous, myself, from sheer exhaustion, I thought, How did a girl who used to ride horses to nomad camps in the mountains of Asia get here?
And the answer clearly came to me: God. It was God who had led me to this moment, to this place, to this circumstance.
We all can probably agree that life often doesn’t turn out the way we expect it to. One of those hard moments of realization came for me when our 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with multiple, life-long, significant health conditions. We were shocked, unprepared and floundering.
All of a sudden, our missionary home assignment became an extended stay in the U.S. We found ourselves needing a place to live and a job for my husband while trying to navigate the medical and insurance systems in America.
We were right in the middle of a full-on crisis. We were soon face-to-face with the possibility that a return to the mission field might not be possible. It felt like a death. We never thought we would one day say goodbye to serving overseas. The loss felt immense, and grief was too near for too long.
There have been many days where the phrase that consumes me is, “This is not what my life was supposed to be.” My plan was not that my husband would have a 9 to 5 job in the U.S. or that I would be found inside the four walls of my home, blowing noses and wiping tushes or carting around kids to therapy appointments and doctor visits.
My plan was exciting. Going to the ends of the earth to share the good news with those who have never heard. This was the sacrifice I was prepared to make. That, I thought, is a satisfying life.
But what happens when God asks something else of you?