Choosing Where To Jump

“Just breathe!” I told myself, still grappling with the straps on my helmet as the sled lurched toward the first drop in the track.

I’ve never been one to risk life and limb for a thrill. Never. But, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and for $6 who could pass up a chance to make a run on an Olympic bobsled track.

“What was I thinking!” I screamed inwardly as we rounded the first curve, and I felt my helmet, still not fastened properly, scrape against the ice. “Breathe! Just Breathe!”

With that breath, the fear melted away. The sled, a conglomeration of what appeared to be PVC pipe and gymnasium exercise pads, skated over the ice faster and faster. It handled each turn with jolting grace, gliding first to one side of the track then the other. Happy butterflies flitted about in my stomach. The cold, Latvian air rushed across my face, followed closely by kisses from the bright, winter sun. It was amazing!

Last week, a blog by author Josh Irby set me to thinking. The blog starts at the edge of a cliff. The Adriatic Sea spreads out in front of him, and he must make a choice. Will he take that one step, that leap into the sea one hundred feet below, or will he walk away from the edge? (Read Inaction: The Secret to a Disappointing Life here.)

I would never make that jump. As I read his story, I thought of a moment in my own life. Two friends and I stood on a platform about twenty feet above the crashing waves of the Black Sea. Every inch of my body trembled at the thought of jumping; even my insides were quivering. I’m a wimp when it comes to heights, and I know it. I would have trouble even walking close to that hundred-foot drop, let alone jumping off of it.

But, as I read the remainder of Josh’s blog, a conversation I once had with my Grandmother came to mind. My grandparents always worried about the time I spent in Russia. Grandpa once tried to talk me out of going. He told me I’d be eating dog meat and drinking reindeer milk. Someone had given him bad information. After I had already spent several years in Russia, my grandmother expressed her concerns.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep going back. It’s dangerous. I worry about you when you’re over there.”

I thought about that for a moment. Was it dangerous? I considered my cousins. One of them had recently taken me up an enormous, wooded hill in his jeep, thrown it into neutral, and scared me half to death as he allowed it to roll down the hill—backwards! Other cousins routinely went skydiving, and the whole family thought it was great. For me, going to Russia wasn’t risky or dangerous. It was life. But then, life is dangerous.

“How is what I do in Russia any more dangerous than my cousins jumping out of airplanes?” I finally asked. “Both involve getting onto planes, but I stay in mine until it lands.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.” She replied, laughing.

And, that’s what it all comes down to: Perspective.

What seems incredibly dangerous and frightening to one person may be right up another person’s alley. I may not be able to jump off a hundred-foot cliff, but challenge me to conquer a language and you’re on. I might not grab up the opportunity to go bungee jumping; but suggest a five-mile hike up a mountain, and I’ll be packing before the words are out of your mouth.

It’s easy to look at other people and think, “Wow, I could never do that. I’m such a loser.” We forget that God didn’t choose us all for the same task. God has given each of us abilities and gifts in different spheres. He’s given us different interests, strengths, and weaknesses, all of which he intends to use. Our weaknesses are His greatest opportunity to show His strength. And often, our strengths are His greatest opportunity to show us our true weakness.

But, even when we are following our own path and not trying to jump off of cliffs intended for others, we may occasionally run into a hundred-foot drop. That’s when we have to make the decision: Am I supposed to jump? Am I going to jump? Why?

When I stood on that platform at the Black Sea, I had to make up my mind. In the end, I did it. Why? Because of the line of people waiting behind me? Because I’m very competitive and didn’t want a particular friend to think I was a wimp (even though I am)? Those aren’t good reasons for taking the plunge.

There was, however, one other factor that pulled me over the edge: I wasn’t alone. To my right stood a friend whom I not only trusted but who had also been in the Coast Guard. I knew if something happened, they would be there with all that training and experience. I knew if I jumped, they would be jumping with me.

Jumping is easier when we’re not alone.

I still remember the fearful tightness in my stomach and the ache in my heart when, for the first time, at nineteen years old, I boarded a plane bound for Russia. I had never flown. I had never been away from all my family at once for more than a few days. I had never spoken Russian. Yet in that same moment, I had a peace that passed understanding and overwhelmed the fear and the ache. I was not alone. God had led me to this cliff, and He was jumping with me.

Eleven years later, however, as I prayed about another ministry opportunity, the experience was quite the opposite. Each time I prayed, I was overwhelmed by a strong sense that if I jumped over this cliff, I would be jumping alone and the bottom would be dry.

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After two weeks of prayer, I wrote to the ministry and told them I didn’t believe the Lord was leading in that direction. That weekend everything became clear. An unforeseeable situation arose in the ministry I was already working with, and I knew I couldn’t leave. It was unforeseeable to me, but God knew and he kept me where I needed to be.

God led me away from that cliff. Sometimes, I wonder if He was protecting me from a danger none of us could see. Or, perhaps, He simply wanted to bless me with the thrill of jumping from the cliff a little further down the path. You see, He used it to acquaint me with missionaries whose ministry profoundly affected the eventual establishment of Forbid Them Not, my current sphere of ministry.

A friend of mine used to call me the “Queen of Predicaments,” and rightly so. It seems I have a way of blundering right into them: riots in the subway, riots in the street, nearly being run over by a train as I dangle from the end of the platform, jumping from a (slowly) moving train, blowing an engine 800 miles from home and 1,000 miles from where I was going in a place I’d never been, the list goes on. But one thing I know: When each of those predicaments came, I had been doing what I was supposed to be doing, and I wasn’t alone. God was there as He promised.

“…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

You may never jump a hundred feet into the Adriatic Sea, or even twenty feet into the Black Sea. You may never cross oceans or leap from moving trains. That’s okay. Some cliffs belong to others, and we were never meant to jump over them. But, when God puts a cliff in your path, and you know He put it there, don’t hesitate. He will go with you. And, even if a predicament waits at the bottom, He will sustain you.

The key is discerning between the two. Learn to ask the right questions as you stand at the edge of the cliffs along your path. Not “Will it hurt? What will others think of me?” but “Did God put this before me? Is it in line with His Word? Is He asking me to simply trust Him?”

Then, when you know the cliff is yours, don’t hesitate.

Take a deep breath.

Jump.

What cliffs has God put in front of you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promise Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

 

 

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My Story

I recently joined a small group of other women in writing for a Facebook Bible study called Worthy Daughters. One of the things we were asked to do was to share our testimonies. It occurred to me that I have never done that on this blog. So, I thought I would just go ahead and share it here as well. I hope it’s a blessing!

Good Morning! My name is Rachel Miller.

Fifteen minutes after I was born, my dad held me in his arms and said, “Rachel, I love you, but you are a sinner and on your way to hell…” Of course, I didn’t understand anything he was saying, but his words that day are a testament to the burden that my parents had for each of their children.

My mother faithfully made sure that my sisters and I memorized Scripture. God used His Word to plant the seeds of understanding in my heart. During one of our Bible memory times, after a week of Vacation Bible School at the church my dad was pastoring in Illinois, I told Mom I knew I was a sinner and needed to be saved. I remember kneeling at Dad’s hideous, gold recliner and calling upon the Lord for salvation. I was baptized about a year later, and about two years after that I surrender my life to the Lord during camp at Triple S Christian Ranch.

In early 1988, my family, USA missionaries with BIMI, took part in a missions conference as part of our deputation trail. On the last night of the meeting, at the age of twelve, I surrendered to a call to missions that had long been growing in my heart. That night the Lord first burdened my heart with orphan ministry.

As time passed and I entered my high school years, things distracted me from that call. But the summer after I graduated, the Lord used Ecclesiastes 5:5-7 to get my attention, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed…”

That day I surrendered again to go wherever He wanted, to do whatever He wanted me to do. One year later, in the fall of 1995, I found myself on the way to Moscow for what I thought would be a nine-month missions trip. I had been there just over four months when the Lord made it clear that I should stay longer. That nine-month stay turned into twenty-two months, and for the next ten years God just kept taking me back. I was blessed to work with many different churches, orphanages, and schools, as well as in widow ministry and ministry among refugees. During that time, I began to see how vital churches were to successful work with orphans and how few churches were actually involved in the work.

In 2005, while back in the States for a short time, the Lord made it clear that I was not to return to my former place of ministry. I began prayerfully considering what the next step would be. My desire was to return to Russia as quickly as possible. Because I had gone to Russia right out of high school and most missions agencies require at least two to three years of Bible college training, I began looking into various colleges. I had just chosen one, when we received a call that my grandmother was in the hospital and the family needed someone to care for my grandfather. Upon my arrival in Ohio, however, it quickly became evident that my grandmother would no longer be able to care for the two of them. For the next 15 months the Lord blessed me with the opportunity of being their primary caregiver.

As my grandparents’ needs increased it became evident that I could no longer meet them sufficiently. I returned home to Montana at Christmas, and it was agreed by all that I should not return to Ohio. So once again, it was time to consider the next step. My heart’s desire was still to return to Russia, still to work with the children that the Lord had placed on my heart, and to get back to that ministry as quickly as possible. At the encouragement of my Pastor (and father) I enrolled in Mountain States Baptist College in Great Falls, MT.

The time at Mountain States was a great blessing, a time to learn and pursue studies that I had long desired to pursue. While there, the Lord opened a special door to work with a group of girls from our bus routes. The time spent with these girls and members of their families opened my eyes to the needs among the fatherless of America.

After college the Lord allowed me to take an extensive survey trip to work with an orphanage in Central Asia and to visit several ministries in Russia. As I went from place to place the burden the Lord had begun to lay on my heart while in college only grew stronger.

It was out of that trip and the experience of the years in Russia that Forbid Them Not Baptist Ministries was born. The burden of my heart is to help churches and missionaries start, strengthen, and maintain ministries to the fatherless of their communities—ministries that are centered around Christ, His Word, and the local church. God has blessed and opened doors to work with orphan ministries in four countries. He has also opened doors locally through my home church, and I’m excited to see a course on the Bible and the fatherless beginning to take shape.

Around the same time, the Lord began opening doors of ministry through writing and editing. This has been one of my greatest joys! I have been blessed to see the orphan ministry and the writing ministry overlap. Bible lessons taught in my local church and then in ladies’ meetings in Kenya became the basis for my first book. And a devotional that I developed while still in Russia became my second. Some women like to bake or quilt or craft and give these things as gifts to encourage others, I’ve never been especially good at those things. But I find a similar joy in sharing the simple lessons God has been teaching me in the quiet moments.

One of the orphans in Russia once asked me what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I told her I wanted to be a magnifying glass. She looked at me like I was insane, and then asked me if I knew what that Russian word meant. I told her that I did understand, and that what I wanted more than anything was for my life to magnify the Lord—my desire is still the same.

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20,21

Valleys, Holding Patterns and The In-Between

Several years ago, I boarded a flight bound for Russia. It wasn’t the first, and it wouldn’t be the last; but our approach to the airport in Shannon, Ireland makes it stand out from all the others. As usual the seatbelt light came on, the pilot told us we were beginning our descent, the flight attendants prepared for landing . . . but then something changed. The plane leveled off, and we began a new course. For an hour and a half, we circled Shannon, waiting for the fog to lift so we could land. Our constant change in direction could be seen in the sunlight coming through the windows: First from one side of the fuselage, then from the other. We were in a holding pattern, and all we could do was trust our pilot to get us there.

A few years later, my mom stood in our kitchen and made the frustrated declaration, “I feel like your life has been in a holding pattern for ten years!”

She was wrong…It had been thirteen years.

Just before I turned twenty, I went to Russia to spend a school year working in an orphanage. I fell in love with Russia and her people and decided to stay through the next school year as well. The following spring, I went home to Montana with plans to return to Russia in the fall.

My plans fell by the wayside when the unexpected happened. Over the next ten months, I helped my mother care for my grandfather. In those months, I came to know more about the man I’d always admired. We shared mutual interests and could sit and talk for hours. I often thought back to my childhood. I remembered arriving at his Indiana farm and rushing into the kitchen with its glaring, single light bulb dispelling the shadows of late evening. I remembered him stooping down with arms spread wide and then scooping me up into an enormous flannel-wrapped bear hug. I could still feel his end-of-the-day whiskers rub against my neck as he said, “OH, that’s a good one!”  But in those days, in-between trips to Russia, I came to know more than Grandpa’s smile and embrace; I came to know him.

In February, after Grandpa had gone to Heaven, I returned to Russia to finish out the school year. When I returned to the States three months later, I faced questions. What was God’s next step for my life? I waited and prayed and waited. I worked at Taco Bell. I took a training course. I waited. Then a phone call came, and I was headed back to Russia.

This process, sans Taco Bell, repeated itself time after time, each spring bringing new decisions. Would I stay? Would I go home? Would I come back? With each decision came times of prayer, times of waiting; times of trusting, learning, and growing.

One spring, I made the decision to go home for six months, the longest furlough since that first ten-month trip eight years earlier. I needed to go, to rest… but I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be coming back, not like I had before.

After 6 weeks at home, my “flight pattern” changed. It went into a much longer holding pattern than ever before. My grandparents needed someone to care for them. While my heart ached to be back in Russia, I was keenly aware that where I was, was special. In the months ahead, I would come to know my grandparents as never before. We would eat together, laugh together, cry over Hallmark movies together, struggle through falls and doctor’s appointments together. My heart would be pushed to new extremes of love, anger, hurt and compassion. And through it all, it would grow.

Fifteen months later, I moved back to Montana. I enrolled in a Bible college and hurried through a two-year course in sixteen months. Almost immediately, I headed back to Moscow to survey several ministries. I was sure by the end of the trip I would know exactly where God wanted me—but I didn’t.

I came home discouraged. I remember going to a conference and kneeling at the front of the church, weeping and asking God what I had missed, what I was supposed to do, what was wrong with me. I spent hours praying, searching the Scriptures, journaling and praying some more.

Days and weeks turned into months. I got a job. I started an editing business. I continued to wait, to learn, and to grow, taking little steps along the way as God directed.

Nine months after I had returned home, we launched the website for “Forbid Them Not” and a new ministry had begun—something I had never anticipated. What has followed was worth all the moments of living in-between “not knowing” and “knowing”.

Waiting can be hard, but in the waiting we grow.

I once stood at the edge of a wide mountain meadow. The grass was short. The flowers were delicate and grew close to the ground. Looking out from that vantage point I realized something—things don’t grow well on the mountaintop. If you want to find growth, you have to go to the valley.

We tend to dislike the valley experiences; they are darker, you can’t see as far. But the growth that takes place in the valley gives us the strength to make the climb to the peaks.

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Last week, I was blessed with the chance to read an advanced copy of “The In-Between: Embracing the Tension between Now and the Next Big Thing” by Jeff Goins. It has been a gentle reminder—Don’t forget to live “the in-between”. Live. Wait. Grow.

Three thoughts from Jeff’s book caught my attention:

“If you and I aren’t paying attention to our lives—if we don’t possess the patience to examine our gifts and talents—then we just might miss what we were made to do.” (pg. 93)

“The word “disappointment” comes from the idea of literally missing an appointment. It originally was used in the context of meetings and gatherings. If you disappointed someone, it meant you told someone you were going to do something and then didn’t keep your word. So what does it mean if we are disappointed with life? Did life make a promise to us that it didn’t keep? Did she promise to always meet our expectations or to keep us comfortable? Can we really be angry with God that things don’t turn out exactly the way we thought?” (pg. 129)

“Our problem, then, is not one of impatience, but entitlement.” (pg. 157)

Somehow, we seem to think we’re entitled to having what we want, when we want it. But that isn’t how God’s plan works. Like any other fruit, the fruit He wants to see in our lives must first bud, grow, and ripen before it is fully mature.

Don’t rush through the valleys, the holding patterns, the “in-between”. God has a purpose for you there. It may be simple “in-between” moments with family. Or, it may allow you to hear God’s still, small voice moving you toward the very thing for which He has prepared you—whatever the case, it is a gift.

Jeff’s Goins new book releases tomorrow, August 1, 2013! You can go here to FIND OUT MORE or GO STRAIGHT TO AMAZON.