I was a young girl with big dreams. In my pre-teen years I had dreams of being a missionary in Kenya, Africa. I even had an African-themed 14th birthday party, complete with gifts of a stuffed giraffe and an African safari jumper.
My best friends were these girls. We bonded while we ran like crazy children around the church and played whatever games young girls play in their church bathrooms while their mothers are in choir practice:
Fast forward a few years. I was in a different church, different school, and had different friends…I also had different dreams.
Spanish had become my best and favorite subject. My dreams still revolved around missions, but this time the people on my heart were the unreached Spanish-speaking people of the world. I was convinced God had no other plans for me.
(my display table at my high school graduation held a Spanish Bible, hymnal, and dictionaries)
Now my life is in a whole different place. I didn’t end up in Kenya or in South America. Nope. Just Kentucky. My days revolve around staying sane as a mother by doing things like painting with my son, wasting time with my Facebook addiction, and trying to encourage other moms just like me through this little corner of cyberspace known as “my blog.”
But the world of Facebook and blogging is so amazing…the opportunities are endless. And it is one such story that I share with you today.
One of my Facebook friends happens to be the mother of those two girls pictured above. Shortly after we left their church, their family did too…to begin deputation to become missionaries in Panama. Ten years later, this woman is now actively serving as a missionary’s wife in Panama, and I now talk to her on an almost daily basis via Facebook. In fact, I talk to her more than I talk to her daughters. We mostly have connected over motherhood stuff, as she is the mother of four grown children. It’s just funny how things work that way.
And she just so happens to read my blog.
Yes…a veteran missionary’s wife reads MY blog. And it was here that she found inspiration.
It started with a blank canvas, finger paint, and toddler fingers that I needed to keep busy. The “messy” canvas sat in my guestroom for months. It was too precious to throw out, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
Then in October, inspiration struck me as it seemed that I had found not only the purpose for my blog (and, in a way, my whole life), but a way to daily remind myself of that purpose. I took that messy canvas and painted the verse Ecclesiastes 3:11 onto it:
“He hath made everything beautiful in his time.”
It really isn’t that great. I’ve never painted text before, and it has a lot of flaws and imperfections. But then again…that’s the point. My life is imperfect. Full of mistake after mistake. My life is messy. I mix the wrong colors together and come up with some random mess. My strokes go crooked, even sometimes when I’m trying my hardest to “paint it right.”
But God sees something beautiful in this mess. He sees a bigger picture than what I can see. And time after time after time he reminds me… “Aprille, I know you think it’s ugly, and messy, and not worth keeping. But you are not beyond my power to make you beautiful. EVERYTHING can be beautiful in my time. Just be patient. I’m not done with you yet.”
So now it hangs in my kitchen. A daily reminder that, as messy as things are, God is in control. He is working.
I posted the post and moved on with my life, not thinking much about it other than the daily reminder I see on my wall every day.
But about a month later I got a phonecall from my grandmother, who just happens to be close friends with this missionary’s wife. She was going on and on about my blog and the painting and “Carol’s project” and how neat it all was, and I was totally lost. My grandmother doesn’t even own a computer or know the definition of the word “blog.” So I asked Carol about it, and this was her response:
Our Mother/Daughter luncheon is December 15 and I was inspired by your blog to choose Ecc. 3:11 as the theme, “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” (Todo lo hizo hermoso en Su tiempo). I am going to give an overview of the first 2 chapters of Ecclessiastes, and then will focus the bulk of my attention on 3:1-14.
The main idea is, apart from God, our lives are empty, futile, and unlovely. Any attempt to to fill the God-shaped void with pleasure, people, things, or work is vain. It is only when we recognize our need for Him and repent of our sins, fully placing our trust in Him for salvation, and accepting His perfect timing, plans and purposes for our lives, can we be made beautiful and useful unto Him. He can always make something lovely, even the worst of our life messes.
In the end I am going to use you and Ezra and your masterpiece painting project for my visual example. I bought canvas the other day and Mark bought wood to make 30 or so frames to mount them on. The plan is to have the kids at church and the grandkids of some of our ladies do the background painting so that the canvases will be ready for the ladies to add their handiwork, Ecc. 3:11, that day. We’ll see how it goes. I’m really excited about it and about the whole lesson. I finished it up yesterday and I think the message comes across loud and clear. Praying the Lord uses it to touch and change hearts and lives!!!
Wow! Talk about a mixture of feeling humbled and excited all at the same time. You mean you are going to use MY idea when you speak to ladies in Panama?
And so she did. But her luncheon didn’t go off without a hitch. In fact, it was so messy, that when she told me the story I had to just laugh.
There were family difficulties with some of the other people involved, so the bulk of all the planning and cooking fell to Carol. There was illness and irritation. Then on the day of the luncheon there was bad weather and traffic accidents that delayed the entire luncheon by an hour and a half! There minor irritations that tested Carol’s patience the entire day. She even forgot her camera.
But the message was still presented:
One of the other lady’s, Raquel, and I delivered the message, sort of casual women’s talk show style, seated in front of a coffee table, taking turns talking. She was really nervous, but in the end she was able to deliver the message well. We did an overview of Ecc. 1 and 2, and then focused on 3:1-14, with 11 being our theme verse. I gave a prayer invitation after the teaching and then closed the message time sharing your Beautiful in His Time blog story, with Ezra and the photos. Everyone oohed and awed over his cuteness and laughed at him covered in paint. All in all the ladies seemed to respond well to the challenge given to look to God for forgiveness and satisfaction and fulfillment, trusting Him to make something beautiful of their lives.
Afterward each lady chose a prepainted canvas, and those who could stay longer, did so and painted the verse on it. The others who had to leave, took theirs with them to paint at home.
I don’t think I could feel any more humbled.
The message isn’t mine…it’s all His. But somehow God used me as the medium to bring beauty to the attention of women across the globe.
I think about all the times when I have felt plagued with guilt and regret because my life hasn’t become what I expected it would when I was dreaming of missions in high school. I think about the frustration that all that Spanish went to waste.
Sometimes I’m even tempted to think that I’m somehow living a “plan B” sort of life. I’m “just a military wife.” I’m “just a mom.”
But those words reach out to me even from another language:
You make it beautiful…in time.
I look at these faces…at the dark hands of women from Panama. And I realize that sometimes dreams change. I’m not meant to be there. I’m better suited sitting at my kitchen table in Kentucky finger-painting with my two-year-old, energy-filled mission field. Carol is the person for these women.
But seeing this picture (above), a dream came true for me. I’ll never go to Panama or be the missionary’s wife that I envisioned myself being when I was in high school. But God gave me this opportunity, for the briefest of moments, to be an influence over this small group of Spanish-speaking women in a foreign country.
Why? I think just because He loves me. Because he wanted me to have one more reminder that He’s not done with me. That as messy as my life is, He can still use me.
So now, when I look up at the painting hanging in my kitchen, I don’t just see my life. I see the lives of these women who I was able to touch briefly by the simple act of writing a blog post about my messy life.
By surrendering daily to His will…His will that has brought me to the place of acceptance that my husband, my children, and my blog may be the only mission field that I will ever see. But it is enough. Because even in the smallest of things…He can make it beautiful, in His time.