What Lies Beneath

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There’s a big green plastic box that’s been travelling with us since 1994 and living in the darkest corners of our storage closet in every home. I’d written “Old Journals” on top and had a vague idea of its contents – my old quiet time journals and random memorabilia from the early 1990s– and nearly every year since then, I’ve considered cracking the cover and taking a trip down memory lane. But I haven’t. I‘ve been afraid: afraid at being dismayed by my notes and writings, and thus, becoming more discouraged about my past. I finally took stock of my fears and here’s what I was afraid of finding:

1. Wretched prayers and quiet time notes that indicate unhealthy self-condemnation and a lack of grace – both understanding God’s grace and extending grace to myself.
2. Endless to-do lists and schedules that would remind me of the non-stop pace we ran in the ministry, making me question my sanity.
3. Further evidence that I might have given myself to a lost or deeply flawed cause and wasted some of the ‘best years of my life’.

Well, today was the day I cracked the vault. It’s a rainy, rainy, rainy day and I was in a mellow, contemplative space. Strong enough, I felt, to deal with “The Contents”. My dog joined me on the floor, next to the heater, and we unpacked.
Here’s what I found:

1. Heart-felt prayers of faith and reliance on God that indicated a close walk with Him and a genuine understanding of God’s grace. Maybe a little less grace extended to myself, but not too little. Early prayers that have been powerfully answered by God in the years since – especially my fervent prayers for a daughter.
2. Several years of my faithful “Quo Vadis” appointment diaries, full of the names of women I remember meeting, getting to know well, and helping to grow in their own walk with God. Yes, they’re densely packed little diaries, but they’re packed with great friends, great acts of faith and love, and answered prayers.
3. Stacks of heart-felt cards and letters from women I knew and loved in Nigeria, South Africa, and Washington, DC/Virginia. Letters that clearly reveal the depth of relationship we enjoyed together and the positive, godly impact we had on each other. Letters from sisters who have since ‘departed to be with the Lord’, but left behind personal words of encouragement for me to read today. Letters that brought smiles, tears, and buckets of joy to my heart. Letters from women who would still do anything for me, and I for them.
4. Piles and piles of notes from classes I’ve taught at seminars, workshops, and other women’s classes. Lessons taken from ALL over the Bible, especially the Old Testament, with a faith-filled focus on relying on God, loving people, and being fully committed to serving God’s purposes, whether by helping the poor, sharing our faith, prayer and/or calling each other to be our best for Him.
5. Random photos of me during those years, confirming that, indeed, I looked younger, healthier and genuinely HAPPIER at that stage of my life. (I beamed real smiles, not the fake ones that stop at the eyes.)
6. Report cards from Daniel’s preschool years in Africa, confirming that he was friendly, well-liked, respectful, and always singing. A few hopeful predictors: “He shows great interest in the cleaning and dusting exercises” – from his Montessori school, Lagos. This interest, unfortunately, didn’t stick. Nor this one: “He is interested in experiments at the science table.” But this cautionary predictor was dead-on: “Daniel is a happy child and he loves fantasy play”. Hello, PlayStation 4!
7. Several very sweet cards from my husband, evidence that he REALLY LIKED me, even way back then, when I was working on this entry: “Show H more support overall and show excitement when he comes home!” (Hmm, still working on that one.)
8. A number of printed booklets of studies and study guides from ICOC leaders, circa early 90’s, showing that my class notes ( and Henry’s, too ) were not of the same ilk and emphasis, generally speaking, but that even those of others varied greatly in quality, emphasis, and depth.

So. I’ll bet God was grinning as He waited for me to open that box and dig in. My worst fears were blown away – like fairy dust from an open hand. Of course, the ‘bad years’ started after we left Africa and began dealing with the first round of deep losses. The heavy years of depression and spiritual ‘famine’ were still ahead. But it was a kiss on the cheek to bring those packed -away years to light, and to realize that I had “nothing to fear but fear itself”.
And so much to treasure!

6 replies »

  1. Im so glad you kept that green plastic box all of these years and that you found the Grace an courage to sit down and look through it because it’s filled with wonderful experiences and memories that you can treasure in your heart foreverand I believe you’ll have more experiences and more memories to come I know there are many people out here who will be helped through your words and experiences you sharethe Holy Spirit is bringing the people here who can be helped by what you have to say I believe that with all my heart. Ps I know all about the smiles that stop at the eyes you’re not alone

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    • Hi Joe, I’m happy I kept it and opened it, too! And I am so thankful that many people are finding this blog and being helped thru my story. God works in mysterious ways, indeed!

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  2. what a blessing that you still have the green plastic boxI’m so happy God gave you the grace and strength to look in the boxit’s filled with so many wonderful experiences that you’ve been a part of all around the world so many lives that you touched people that genuinely care for you and love youand I believe God has many more experiences for you in the future that you’ll treasure I believe God’s Holy Spirit is bringing men and women from around the world to this website so you can help them as you share your life experiencewith us. Ps.I know all about the smile that stops at the eyes you’re not alone

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  3. I would give my eye teeth to have access to those Messages Marilyn! I hope you remember me too Caroline Okafor from the Lagos Church whom you helped in converting 22 years ago. You told me after writing my sin list over 3 days that whatever sin I had not written down by then, God would certainly forgive because the pages were full of writing and plenty. I thank God that through all He has been by your side. Your love for God and sacrificial living remains true in the hearts of the Lagos disciples who were in the church at that time.

    I know that God will make clear to us the reason for all the happenings in the ICOC churches and my prayer is that we learn and change. God Bless you and my love to Henry and Daniel and your daughter whom I have not met.

    Hope to stop by one day.

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