Grumbling or Thanks Giving – It’s a Choice, Really!

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. Exodus 15:1

It has seemed appropriate to study Exodus since we have moved here to Cairo.  In a few short weeks, when our oldest son comes to visit, we’ll stand in the shade of the pyramids of Giza and stay in a resort on the shore of the Red Sea.  My mind’s eye thrills at the thought of imagining the miracle from the shore and considering Moses song of praise.

Yet as I keep reading, not a few verses beyond, I find:

“Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.  When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”” (Exodus 15:22-24)

Oh how easily, shortly, my heart turns to grumbling.

We received our shipment of household goods this week!  So many prayed for the resolution of our situation and are part of that miracle; thank you, O Lord!

My oldest daughter asked a few days after we got the news that our shipment would be delivered soon, if I thought it could arrive before her birthday.  She loves strawberry cake and wanted it to be a bundt cake, and we’d been making due with the one 13 x 9 pan that I’d purchased as we waited for our baking supplies to arrive from the U.S.  I told her I would ask!

I had previously asked God for our goods be delivered before Thanksgiving so I could make a good meal for my family to ease some of the sadness of not sharing this day with aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, but now I prayed again, “God, could we please have the shipment delivered before our daughter’s eighteenth birthday to make it special?”  It arrived on the sixteenth, the day before her big day.  I felt God’s deep love for me and my family in answer to my rather frivolous request.

So, we set about making this a special day for her, and went shopping for the ingredients to make the cake.  Thinking we could shop at the US Commissary, because we are able to do so in most every other country all over the world, we set out only to be told that we couldn’t.  So, we had to make due with the ingredients that we could find and the disappointment of not making the perfect cake.

There have been many disappointments and difficulties since we’ve moved here, but if I list those, instead of all of the good, I begin to grumble and my attitude infects everyone around me.  I am still learning (“When will I ever be done learning the same lesson over and over, Lord”) to “take captive every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:15 NIV) but when I do, I can avoid grumbling in the desert and focus on the hope of what God is going to do next.  Sometimes, I may have only to walk three days in the desert to taste His life giving water, others it may take years and years, but I know my God will always “work all things together for good, for those He has called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) For that I am forever grateful!


A Cutting Time

Moving to Cairo has been the most difficult move we’ve made over the last (almost) 25 years.  And we’ve moved a lot!

Having been a Marine’s wife for 20 years, I am usually good at this: I know that when we land in a new place, I must push myself out of my comfort zone to meet new people, find a place to volunteer in church and find ways for my kids to connect with new friends, church and sports activities as well.

This move has been fraught with difficulty from the moment we decided to set out on this journey to the Red Sea: getting our contract late meant that we had to get our boots on the ground running, with no time to waste.  In the whirlwind of dealing with my dad’s death, being his executrix,  preparing for an overseas move and then arriving here one day before the boys were to start school, I have struggled to understand all that God is asking me to give up.

For the first time in my married life, I have found myself unable (unwilling?) to simply pick up my bootstraps, get out there and make new friends, get involved in volunteering in the church and pressing into this new community in order to get us settled here.  And it is not that people aren’t reaching out to us.  We’ve joined a small group, and this has been a good source of friendship and support and those relationships are growing.

I asked God when there was a ministry fair back in September if I should volunteer and the clear answer was “No.”  As we homeschool the girls, it has become very clear that I am not equipped to teach my two girls.  I have no training to help them learn to overcome whatever learning obstacles they face.  It has also become very clear that this is exactly where He is asking me to serve: in my weakness, lack of ability and heartache.

So many hard things have occurred while we are here, that I could begin to wonder, God do you understand my need? Do you know I need to do something more fulfilling than trying day after day to build these girls up when my daughter is flinging such anger my way that just accomplishing the task of getting through one school day with my faith intact seems impossible?

In the beginning, I was envious of Mark, getting to leave it all and go to work, to do what he enjoys and be fulfilled that he is finally doing his calling.  But over these months, God has been cutting, molding and changing my heart as he calls me to this hard, seemingly unfulfilling service

I know it is not a sign that He doesn’t know me, or understand my needs.  I know that the difficulties are not a sign that He is absent or doesn’t care, but rather is a walking with me to the Red Sea Road and our future miracle.  Yes, he is pruning me and taking away much that I would rather do and asking me to do the hard service of loving without seeming reward or fruit in the moment.

When we first came here, I knew God was sending us on the way to the Red Sea, and I thought of it mostly as La Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering.  Now, I have begun to see as I’ve been studying Exodus, that much of the suffering and wandering in the desert is for a purpose.  “God did not lead them [as the Israelites approach the Red Sea] on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter, for God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” (Ex. 13:17)  I am struck that the Israelites never knew what God was thinking, and thus never knew the provision he was making for them by taking them on the longer, more difficult, road.  I know this to be true in my own life too, but so often forget in the day to day of my own small sufferings.

I am beginning to see that the way to the Red Sea leads to the miracle of God’s provision for our family. I still have to remind myself, as waves of frustration hit week after week in this place, that this is the road to deliverance, and I believe healing (whatever that means in God’s eyes) for my family.  As each trial has come this week – my stolen debit card and the news that we would have to pay $5,000 to get our household goods shipment out of customs, I’ve realized that it is an opportunity for prayer and trust in the God who has parted the Red Sea.  And it is also an opportunity for His people, my brothers and sisters to be part of that miracle, watching and waiting in prayer together so that we may all share in the miracle provision that is coming.  There is hope in the cutting!