Whenever we meet some one lately who asks to hear our story, one of the questions they inevitably ask us is, “So, what’s next for you guys?”
Anyone who knows John and me are familiar with our recent life events. Less than two years ago, we were making plans to move our family to Zimbabwe to continue our ministry efforts with greater focus, depth and intimacy in early 2014. Yep, that’s now. Back then though, an annual medical test in September 2012 changed the trajectory of our direction. My diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent surgery, treatment and follow-up plan put the breaks on all of our moving plans. As a result, our plans were put on hold indefinitely.
The question, “What’s next?” continues to be an inquiry that keeps coming up for us.
Sometimes when a dream dies or is postponed, it can cause feelings of discouragement, loss and even depression. The intensity of the lost hope can cut through the heart and send one on a course of uncertainty, fear and sadness. Thankfully, our story doesn’t include this level of pain. However, when I consider where we are now and what we could be doing instead to prepare for another international move, I confess I do feel some twinges of melancholy from time to time.
Because, I have no idea what is next.
The only thing that is certain is that we are here. For now, we remain in South Africa.
As I shared in an earlier post, I am in the process of memorizing the entire book of Philippians. When you read a book of the bible over and over and over again, different concepts from the Word appear in different readings. This morning, as I reviewed chapter 1 of Philippines, I was particularly struck by these words of Paul:
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Philippians 1:22 NIV
As I read these words, I realized that I could change up these words just a bit to read them like these to address our current “What’s Next?”:
If I am to go on living in South Africa, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
If I am to go on living as John’s wife and Micah, Jake and Caleb’s mother, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
If I am to go on living as Jake and Caleb’s HappyBlueSchool teacher, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
If I am to go on living as an Early Childhood Education Coordinator in southern Africa, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
If I am to go on living and writing Instead Bless and our Witherow Family Care Prayer updates, this will mean fruitful labor for me.
You get the picture.
If I have been given the gift of continued life where I am, then the Lord plans to fulfill His good purpose and produce fruitful labor for me out of my obedience to stay and serve Him in the here and now.
When I look at the change of our life direction in this way, I can answer the question “What’s next?” a little better.
Whatever is next for John, our family and me, it will mean more opportunities for fruitful labor where we remain. A good harvest will result by serving where we are for as long as our God desires. And a good harvest only results by doing a good, productive, and faithful work.
Yes, we remain in South Africa. We had hoped to go to Zimbabwe. However, this is not the course our Heavenly and Good Father requires of us. At least not yet. Maybe not ever.
For now, He asks us to remain and allow His work to continue so that a good harvest will come through us in His time and in His way. Humbly, I take to heart Paul’s words which say, “…so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me” (NIV Philippians 1: 26).
I don’t know if you are in a process of letting go of a dream or have recently experienced the loss of direction or feel displaced, it is my prayer that Paul’s words encourage and strengthen you like they did for me.
You and I have been given the gift of life.
We have been offered the opportunity to remain where we are for now so that our fruitful labor on our Savior’s behalf will result in a good, eternal, life-giving harvest.
What are we waiting for?