Updated: Feb 23, 2022
The Lord is really teaching me more these days than ever before. I think that often happens when you are going through some tough days. This past month has been pretty rough. We have enjoyed celebrating the birth of our Savior and the beginning of a new year, we are looking forward with hope and excitement for all that Christ will accomplish, and we have gotten to enjoy some beautiful snowy weather this past month or so. However, even with the abiding joy, and the goodness of our LORD, life has not been easy. Out of the last 45 days either one or more of us has been continually sick for 34 of them: viral infections, chicken pox, bacterial infections, bronchial pneumonia, laryngitis, etc. The transition from Tennessee to Bulgaria, from Summer to Winter, and from life at home to life out and about and in Daycare has been tough on our bodies. We have also journeyed through our first Christmas season away from our family in Tennessee. At times this has been tough on our hearts. There have been many days when we have been sick and tired of being sick and tired and longed for some of those places and people that have previously brought us comfort.
How do you respond to tough times like that? What do you learn about yourself, your purpose, and your Lord? Well, I am constantly reminded of one of my favorite passages of scripture: Psalm 23. It has been so important to me over these past weeks that I have learned it in Bulgarian and begun memorizing it, because I think it is a perfect explanation of what I continually learn about God. The Lord is our Shepherd, ever present, leading, healing, comforting, encouraging, and overcoming on our behalf. I am learning, more than ever, to receive the gift of my Lord’s presence.
One night, in the midst of our greatest bout of illness with Jude and Kate, I was lying in bed with Jude. I could feel the heat coming off of his little body as he battled a fever of 104. As I lay there next to him, I began to pray. I spoke to the Lord about my fears, my frustrations, and my desire to see my children healthy and thriving in this new and wonderful place to which the Lord has called us. Just as I was praying, I received a message from a friend in the United States, telling me that she was praying just then for us and our children. I want to give glory to God because his servants cry out and He answers us in our hour of need. God did not answer our prayer by miraculously healing Jude and Kate that night. Jude and Kate did not get better quickly, their fevers continued, and we were forced to rush to a special 24-hour clinic. However, even as I finished that prayer, and read that another was journeying with us in prayer, the presence of Christ powerfully settled over me in that bed, it settled in over our house, and our children’s rooms, and remained with us throughout the night from the house, to the clinic, across town to the pharmacy, as Katie mixed and prepared medicines, and even as we laid our children to bed. His presence is so very near. It is so very near, and we do not live on bread alone. We live by the grace, the power, the presence of the one who is our ever-present Shepherd, who draws near to us even as we draw near to Him.
We are learning, all over again, to receive the gift of the presence of our Lord. Just the other day Kaitlyn began to pray for Jude, because he was not feeling well, and I said, “Kate, just think, all you need to do is focus your attention on Jesus, and talk to him, and he listens, and comes close to you.” What a miracle.
We are also learning to receive the gift of friendship and community. We knew that we were coming to Sofia to share our lives with others and to be a blessing to them, but I am not sure we were ready for how much life and blessing we would receive from others sharing their lives with us. The week after Christmas we had three different couples in our home on three different nights through the week. We retired to our beds one particular night after spending about 4 hours with our friends and their little daughter. We wore big smiles and laid in bed late into the night discussing what a treasure it was to laugh, eat, play, and share life with others. How we need it! How we need to take advantage of every opportunity to draw near to God and draw near to others and just thrive at receiving the gift of presence. Perhaps, that is what prayer and Christian life is all about. Maybe, just maybe, it is about being people who are just really good at receiving the gift of God’s life and the lives of those around us.
As we look ahead, we are excited. We are excited because we have more friends here in Sofia than ever before. We are excited because new things are happening. We are excited because our kids are finally healthy enough to go back to school and be with friends. We are excited because there are always more opportunities to discover God’s presence and the presence of our neighbors. We are also grateful. We are grateful for your prayers. They really are powerful and affective. We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of God’s life in Sofia. We are grateful for His nearness. Let’s just see what God has in store for us this new year. Our eyes, our minds, our hearts, and our hands are open!