One of the things I have been most excited about regarding our theme of Living Simply in Order to Give is looking at the topic of how we can give of ourselves. This can take on many shapes and I hope to explore many of them through a series of interviews I am calling "Giving of Ourselves". If you yourself or someone you know gives of themselves in such a way that you think others would find inspiring, please let me know. I'd love to interview them as well.
I was honored to conduct my first "Giving of Ourselves" interview with my blogger friend, Michelle. This woman inspires me in her ability to be real about her relationship with God. I love to hear other women being open about their struggles and triumphs when it comes to fellowship with God. It's something I think we all need to talk about more. If we can't talk about it with our friends, how are we going to be able to talk about it with someone we don't know as well who really may be needing to hear our words of encouragement and truth? Michelle's blog Give a Girl a Fig chronicles her thoughts on life, family, art and her relationship with her Father.
Below you will find Michelle's words about a recent instance when she gave of herself. And, for her, if was no small feat. Read on to discover how God provided both a vision and the strength to complete it. Thank you, sweet friend, for including us in your experience in this way.
Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and how you spend your time. Well, I live in the town that I was raised in…and my children go to all the same schools that I did! I am married to my sweet, hard-working hubby, Chris. He is the love of my life. We have two sons, Seth who is 15 and Ian who is 12. We have a dog, two cats and four chickens in our backyard. I have been slowly but surely learning to live a more healthy and self-sufficient lifestyle. This process can get a bit overwhelming so I’ve been challenging myself to learn at least one new thing a season. This winter I have challenged myself to learn to bake bread and make a patchwork quilt. Wish me luck!
Most importantly, I love the Lord. I have been born-again for 10 years…and they’ve been the best and hardest 10 years of my life. I think it’s Max Lucado who says, “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way.” And I am so grateful for that. God plucked me up out of the pit and I’ve been on a new path since. He let me know it was time to become the woman He’d created me to be. And let me tell you, the past 10 years have been an amazing journey… really, really hard at times…but always wonderful and miraculous…and worth it ALL. God is good…all the time…and I am proud to be called His.
I’ve been involved with women’s ministry for the past nine years and love it. Encouraging women and helping them become who God created them to be is a passion God placed in my heart and it’s what I love to do.
How did you hear about the opportunity to go/serve and what did it entail? My dear friend Irvina and I were chatting on Facebook one night. At the same time she was talking to me, she was talking to the pastor of the church she attended while she lived in Belgium 12 years ago. She typed to me, “Pastor Richard wants to know when I’m going to bring my ministry team to Belgium? Hey…maybe you can come with me!” And my reply was, “No way. YOU go right on ahead and go. Count me out!” Well the whole next day it’s all I could think about…and before I knew it God whispered in my heart that I would be going. So when I ran into Irvina at church a few days later and she said, “You realize that you ARE going to Belgium, right?” I could only reply, “I know. God already told me.” And after that, it was simply a matter of obedience.
What were your concerns about the trip and how did you move past them? Oh my gosh, I think the easier question, and the fastest to answer, would be what concerns DIDN’T I have?! From the beginning of this whole thing, I was terrified. I was concerned about what my part would be in the ministry, I was concerned about flying, I was concerned about leaving my family, I was concerned about raising the money, I was concerned about being in God’s will from start to finish. You name it, I was concerned about it. But over the course of the year God really took me on an amazing journey of trust and faith so that by the time I was boarding that airplane, I knew I was doing exactly what God had called me to do. Knowing that God had brought me through so much to get to this point is what helped me to be brave and to just REFUSE any thoughts of fear that might rise up.
Michelle, on left
What made you decide to go for it in the end? Obedience. And the trust I have in my Father. I knew He wouldn’t call me to do something that He wasn’t also going to prepare me for. And I knew that He was going to take care of every little detail…both in Belgium and at home. Obedience and trust. It’s really what it’s all about.
How did you finance your trip and plan for your time away from home? Financing the trip to Belgium was a miracle in and of itself. I felt like God wanted me to use my “talents” to raise some of the money so I sold some of my photographs in the form of notecards and framed art. I sold them online and at a few art shows. I also put a Donate button on my blog at God’s nudging and that turned out to be one of the best things I did. I was blown away by the generosity of people. I was blown away at the faith they had in me and my ability to go and share the love of God with others. Before I knew it, and without really putting on a full-blown fund-raising effort, I had enough money to pay for my entire round-trip flight. God provided it ALL through amazing people like Thy Hand and many, many others I’ve been blessed to come in contact with through internet groups and blogs. Also too, I’d be sitting at church and someone would approach me and give me an envelope of cash…or a check. $25 here, $50 there, some gave as little as $5 and as much as $200! Or an envelope would come in the mail, anonymously, with $100 inside. It was amazing…the whole process. God really showed His provision for me through that process. It was incredible. GOD is incredible.
As far as planning for while I was away, my main concern was that things were as easy as possible here at home for my husband. He would be the one taking care of our kids, taking care of our business, taking care of our home, taking care of it ALL. So I wanted to help him as much as possible before I left. I made several meals and froze them so that he wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. I made sure everyone had lots of clean clothes before I left. I got all of the bills written out and the envelopes stamped so all he had to do was put them in the mail. I tried to do a lot of what I would be doing if I were home before I left. It worked out really well.
What was the purpose of your trip/what did you do? The goal of our trip was to travel to small churches in Belgium and perform concerts and speaking engagements. Belgium is one of the darkest places, spiritually, in the world. Christianity is not popular there at all. So many of the churches we visited were very small and very isolated. As they shared with us while we visited, our coming to them provided them with encouragement and it let them know they weren't in this alone. One of the gals I was traveling with put it like this, "These little churches are on the front lines. And they're calling for reinforcement, but none is coming. We were able to provide a little bit of reinforcement." We went to a tiny meeting hall in a town called Namur where we performed a concert and shared a few testimonies. The name of the concert was "Hope for Wallonia" and the people of this small church had advertised it for weeks. As it turned out, there was a woman there that was considering committing suicide that night but instead did a Google search for "hope". And because God is so cool and so amazing, "Hope for Wallonia" popped up in the search and the next thing she knew she was at the concert. Eventually she made her way up to the front to pray with one of my team members and ended up accepting Jesus as her Savior. When we heard that after returning home it was unanimous among the team members, that if everything we went through to get there was just so she could be saved, then it was all worth it. You just never know...but God does. I have a feeling that I won't know the effect I had on people, or we as a team had on people, until I get to Heaven. And that's OK. I just need to trust God and know that this was all in His plan. He asked us to plant some seeds...and that's what we did. Now He can do the watering.
How did your family fare without you? You know, they did great! And I have to give huge credit to my husband, without him and his support and encouragement and willingness to stay home and run our home beautifully while I was away, this trip would not have been able to happen. Not to mention all of the encouragement he gave me along the way. He made it possible for me to go in peace, knowing that my family would be ok while I was away. My boys also really stepped up to the plate and took on more responsibilities while I was gone, too. They worked together really well. I am so, so proud of ALL of them. Don’t get me wrong, they missed me, a LOT. And they were glad that I was home. But, they survived. And they grew from this experience, too. (And they learned to do their own laundry!)
How did this experience affect you? I don’t want to sound cliché, but this experience really did change my life. I did not return from Belgium the same person. When my family dropped me off to catch the plane to Belgium I was crying so hard I could hardly breathe. I was literally sobbing. I did NOT want to go…at all. But I did go. And I came back changed. I came back brave and confident and ready for the next thing that God wants me to do. I don’t know what that is yet…but He’ll let me know when He’s ready. I also came back with burdens I hadn’t had before…the small churches of Europe, the human-trafficking situation, and even a few people that I still pray for by name. It opened up my heart and it opened up my world. There is so much more out there than our own four little walls.
What would you say to someone who doesn't think they can take advantage of an opportunity like this at this stage in life? You know, the most important thing about doing something like this is to know that you know that you KNOW that it’s what God would have you do. I didn’t want to go to Belgium just because it sounded like a fun trip. I didn’t want to go to Belgium because I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit Europe. I wanted to go to Belgium because I knew that God called me to. And a missions trip can’t be for any other reason other than doing God’s will. If you are in His will, He will go before you and prepare the way. So if God has asked you to do something, even if it’s totally out of your comfort zone, know that He WILL make a way and all you have to do is follow Him. If God has asked you to do it, the stage you’re at in life won’t be an issue.
What was one thing about your trip you wish was different?" or..."that you did not expect?" I wish I had been more prepared for the emotions I’d feel while I was away. I really missed my family. And there were times when I felt very much alone. I wasn’t expecting that since I was traveling with 10 other people. Also, too, there were aspects of the trip that weren’t completely organized so we really had to fly by the seat of our pants at times. But the great thing about that was that we were really able to see God’s hand in those situations, and we knew without a doubt that He was totally in control.
Ultimately, going to Belgium was the experience of a lifetime, of MY lifetime. And I am so grateful that God chose me. It was a wild ride from start to finish and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.
All photos courtesy of Michelle