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The Year of the Good Shepherd

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It was a year ago, for what seemed like countless nights, I laid my head down on my pillow at the close of the day, listening to the faint sound of cars rushing to and fro along the highway from our apartment window. Thinking, planning, preparing for our move across the country to a foreign mid-west destination. It seemed impossible, insurmountable, it didn’t seem like it was God’s plan. It was too far, plain and simple. The night worries would arrive, at times there were tears. It was too far. I couldn’t picture our new home. I had never been here before. I had no context, only fear. Questions would flood through my thoughts: Would we be safe? What if our truck broke down along the way in the barren lands between the cities? Where would we live? Would there be friends for our children nearby? Will there be friends for us? Where will we go to church? Which neighborhood should we choose? Should we rent or buy? All these thoughts would rush upon me in the evening hours.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

Many nights, I would fall asleep praying and repeating Scripture over and over, like a broken record player, until at last the Lord closed my eyes and gave me sleep.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

Then the sun would rise. Streams of light through my window, the children would wake up from their slumber, one by one, and a new day would begin. New mercies would come, excitement for our upcoming move, joy and peace, news of new developments in our plans, encouraging emails and notes from friends. Inspiration and a constant source of joy in the daily readings of Charles Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening devotional. The excitement was thrilling as I packed boxes and made lists and walked in faith for God’s plan for our family.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
-Lamentations 3:22-23

As the day came to a close, dishes piled high in the sink and clean laundry in baskets, toys cleaned up and books put away, I braced myself for the evening worries that were sure to arrive with the setting of the sun. Once again, I would be forced to face these giants and take up the shield of faith, that shield which really is Christ himself. He is the shield, the sword, the belt, the helmet, the entire armor.

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The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. -Psalm 23

And the sun would rise.

His mercies are new every morning.

As the nights and days continued this pattern of fear & despair and then of faith & joy, the Holy Spirit continued to confirm what He was doing. A note from my mother with just a verse… Isaiah 41:10. A note from my mother-in-law with the names of God: Jehovah Jireh – Provider, Jehovah Nissi – Battle fighter, Jehovah Shalom – Giver of Peace, Jehovah Rophe – Healer, Jehovah Tsidkenu – Our Righteousness, Jehovah Shammah – Ever Present One, Jehovah Rohi – Good Shepherd. And after our move, a gift from a friend arrived in the mail… Psalm 23 in beautiful hand lettering. There it was again… the Good Shepherd.

The months continued on as we mixed the regular routine of life with packing boxes, a few every week, slowly setting aside the things we would need for the trip. And then came the news that my Dad was diagnosed with a low level of cancer. I couldn’t bear to be so far from him if he was to go through testing and treatment. I was at the end of myself.

At the edge of my bed that night, Craig and I started to brainstorm about other possibilities for him to get his seminary degree. It was then that he said we could move back to the coast so we could be closer to my family and then he could do his degree online. We were ecstatic. Could this really be happening? The plans were set in motion and our compass was turned westward and we started the arduous search for a rental home and setting up contacts at a church where we could officially come “under care” during his seminary studies which was a requirement for online study.

It was 2 weeks before the move “back home” and we still had not found a rental home. We had no place to live, and the rental requirements had changed putting us in a position where we could not rent without a cosigner, work to make enough money for the county requirements, and go to seminary full or even part time to make this work. Rental homes were too expensive, owners weren’t getting back to us. Craig’s trips to search out a place back home were coming up with no options. We were stuck, as if all the roads we had tried to go down were now vanishing before our eyes.

It was there on the porch of Craig’s parents’ home in mid-May that we sat after a long day of work, as the kids ran around on the lawn around us, that we made the only decision that was left to us… which really wasn’t a decision afterall, but a clear direction. We would return to our original plan of moving to the mid-west, where there would be an affordable apartment unit waiting for our family, a close-knit community ready to receive us for these 4 years of intense study. God gave us inexplainable peace. He had shown us the way. We had been rerouted. And though we don’t know exactly why, we know that in God’s wisdom, it was the way He chose to bring this about.

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We had two weeks to prepare, get paperwork going for healthcare, plan out the roadtrip, the clothing bins, the food bins for our three day journey across the country. A few days before we left, my daughter came down with a double ear infection, then my son. While we were at the doctor office, I decided to just get us all checked. I was also coming down with an ear infection and our one year old had traces of pneumonia found after a chest X-ray. It was all I could do to keep going. After several visits to the doctor and pharmacy that day, my prayers were desperate. We were leaving in the morning with an ill family and in need of doctor checkups. Once we crossed out of the state, our healthcare provision would be gone.

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“Lord, You are the only One who can get us across the country in one piece. Please heal us and keep us well and bring us safely to our new home. You are the Good Shepherd.” These types of prayers filled my every waking moment and my prayers as I fell asleep each night. Knowing the cost of healthcare bills without insurance, my heart was tempted to worry. God was bringing us in complete and loving dependance on Him alone. Our sweet Father, in all His wisdom, knew exactly what was required.

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With our moving van packed up, our truck packed with our four children, clothing bins, necessities, books and games for the kids, presents from the Nanas and Papas for the road trip, and a cooler filled with ice and medicine, we started out early that morning, that morning where His mercies were new again, with excitement and joy, following our Good Shepherd into all that He had for us, following our Provider into a life of increased sacrifice and requiring increased faith for an unknown journey.

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It was a morning of worship and singing as we drove out, me driving the truck full of children and music and a mug of coffee, following behind my fearless leader husband as he drove the moving truck full of all our earthly possessions. We arrived, safe and sound, into a land of blessing, provision, joy, new trials, and sweet comforts from the Lord. This is home for now, the place the Good Shepherd prepared for us.

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The year of our Lord, 2015, has been a year of knowing Christ as the Good Shepherd. Dwelling in the reality of Psalm 23 and experiencing Him as the Good Shepherd has forever deepened my relationship with Him. He continues to show us the reality of His tender love, provision, protection, comfort, and joy.

The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

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