PART ONE On October 6, 2013 we laced up our shoes, carried our backpacks, gave our big hugs, and boarded a plane to step into this African journey for which God had been shaping us.
Our God made a promise to us in Scripture, and we have prayed it over our lives more than a few times in the past year.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4)
Lord, please let me hold eternal pleasures close to my heart. Please come be our portion while there is a family-sized gap in our lives way over here. Father, please help me seek you when I can’t see purpose, or plans, or provision. Fill us with joy in your presence. Please help us love like you would want us to.
And sure enough, God has answered. Funny how it all works though… the only truly important part of that Scripture is the first part… Delight yourself in [Me]. If we sincerely identify our joy in the presence of the Lord, a shift begins to occur. It’s as if God whispers, “Take delight in me and the desires of My heart will slowly begin to be your desires too.” The desires we once held dear to us, often with a tight grip and a logical explanation, seem to slip out of a lead role and into the background. That’s how God meets us. He gently leads us into Jesus, a man whose humble sandals travelled down dusty roads, whose head lay to rest on a rock, and whose heart bowed in quiet moments alone on the mountaintops. A man who was often far from familiar comforts and close to fulfillment and joy. A man with many friends yet eager to talk with strangers. Heck…a man with many enemies yet a willingness and trust to march ahead. A man with little baggage and great purpose.
Lately our prayer has changed. Lord, let us walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). Let us be imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1). Let us live and move and have our being in You (Acts 17:28).
Would we still love to settle down into a home one day? Do we still desire for our kids to share in some of the traditions we loved throughout childhood? Don’t we want to be close to family and go to football games and spend weekends in the Smokey Mountains? Sure we do. Maybe we will. And we don’t think that is wrong. Hear us on that.
But alongside all of those earthly desires, God has planted a heavenly peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding. An ever-growing, heart-filling joy that resonates with following Jesus- dinner dates with siblings… or not, football games… or not, a home full of wedding gifts… or not, building forts with my nephews…or not, crisp spring mornings on the farm…or not.
Delighting in the love and call of a Savior brings with it far more blessing than sacrifice. Our great, big God does not dictate that we must follow Him or else. He holds our hand, guides us into His love, and shapes us to desire things that produce an everlasting source of pleasure. Streams of abundance.
Earthly desires still exist in us. I still feel so happy and refreshed when all 10 chairs around my mom’s kitchen table are filled with my favorite people. Or when the day is just right to spend it exploring the family farm on the 4-wheelers. But those desires do not direct our prayers as they used to. We have begun to fear getting swept back into such a prayer life, driven solely by what we want instead of what we know God has for us. We pray that God will continue to help us find delight in Him and Him alone. We pray that He is what matters most to us. We pray that we will recognize and praise Him for the blessings that flow out of trusting Him and that we will not confuse earthly gifts with eternal pleasures. We pray that for all of God’s people- that the riches of his glorious inheritance will be fully realized and we will all know the hope to which He has called us (Eph. 1:18).
God is good. All the time.
I read somewhere the other day a quote that said, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say."
This has been the case for me since I was a little girl. However, it produces this need to fully explain. To use too many words. To get lost in writing before I realize that I've gone and said too much! Thus, we have part 2 of this blog post.
When I began writing this blog back in April 2013, the Lord began to put specific ideas on my heart to share. I don’t have the wherewithal to sit down and type this thing out every single day, but every two weeks or so, God gives me a word that I know is from Him. I could be driving, I could be sitting in a meeting, I could be at club with a bunch of teenagers or running by the beach, and the title of my next blog post just pops into my head. It is with that title that the Lord begins to show me truths, stories, and observations that fit with it precisely and beautifully. That said, the whole picture of “delight” has been building up to look very different than the ramblings from Part 1. However, as I typed and was trying to go in the direction I’ve thought about for weeks now, I couldn’t help but detour into eternal pleasures. It was as if God was saying, “Emma, write this first, so that you know what you think when you read it.” Just another way that God works to help us hold Him dear when there could be a threat that we’ve put something before Him. Duely noted, God.
Now for my own scrapbooking purposes and the original intent of this post, I would like to share of the delights that the Lord has given us in our little African home. After a first year painted with frustrations and overwhelmed by cultural differences and struggles for purpose, God took us home to be with friends and family. He allowed this time as a way to be honest, to expose our struggles, and to seek encouragement. We left America feeling refreshed by the Body, covered in prayer, and filled with the Spirit. We arrived back in a South Africa that felt more like real life than ever before. Our house felt like a home. Our friends felt like family. Our roles felt secure. It felt right. After all, we have been a married couple in South Africa far longer than we were ever a married couple in America. We had this peace in knowing, “This is right because this is where our life is for now, and God has led us here.”
Each day since our arrival back on South African soil for our second year of ministry, God has begun to show me little delights that I am growing to love about our life here. The frustrations are not erased. The cultural differences are still there. But the delights are shining brighter.
I love the deepening of home relationships as a result of being far. The intentional phone calls, packages, text messages, or emails. The meaningful conversations. The excitement to hear from someone rather than the casual, “oh hey.” I love the opportunity to treasure relationships and the vision to see them as special.
I love the out-of-the-box-ness of being here. I love that my husband drives a dirtbike with a weird contraption attached to the side made out of scrap metal and a pool noodle that carts his surfboard around. I love that we can buy ostrich meat right next to the ground beef. I love that we see scary tarantala-like spiders and hear squawking birds and hide from crazy barking baboons.
I love that we can walk into the communities here and with a wave and a smile say hello to someone by name. I love that if I’m driving with my windows down, I hear “Emma!” being yelled by children on the street.
After years of week-long mission trips, I love that we get to do life with these people and not just hold onto their precious pictures in our hearts. I love that I don’t have to be afraid of them because I know them and that they don’t have to be afraid of me because they know me. I love that we have shared meals in homes and met extended families and know one another’s quirks and ideas and dreams.
I love that we have bugs in our house. I love that the roof leaks and the oven is small and there is no dishwasher. I love that we have to judge the weather to know when to dry our clothes. I love these tiny imperfections that make us so content with what we do have and often times bring us laughter. I love feeling okay about it being okay.
I love the mountains and beach at our fingertips. I love that we don’t have to look far or pay much or take a lot with us to have a great day. We just go. We see. We do. We climb. We walk. We surf. We run. We discover. We gaze in wonder. Beauty is so entertaining.
I love the fellowship of believers we have here. (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32) In fact, I might should move this one to the top of the list. We are what we’ve got. Families are far. Traditions are far. Home is far. And we lean on each other with a deep understanding of what it’s like. We share meals together. We share celebrations with each other- and birthdays, and Christmas, and Thanksgiving and all those holidays that usually encompass the people you’ve grown up beside. We share sorrows. We share knowing looks that don’t require deep conversations, just quiet prayers. We babysit for free. We jump at the chance to housesit so that we can enjoy a shower at your place when all we have is a bath at ours. We aren’t all alike. We aren’t all in the same stage of life or heading in the same direction in the future. But we share a purpose and a unity that comes from following Jesus and being here right now. And it’s blissfully wonderful. We’ve made treasured friendships that will endure into eternity.
I love the platform on which to connect with people. People from our pasts that we have long lost touch with. People we have never met that want to touch base. People that have been moved or blessed by a story we have shared. It’s really incredible. Elementary school teachers and principals. Old coaches. Church members that you never really knew before. Friends of friends. Distant cousins. Fellow ministers. We are so blessed by the connections we have been able to make.
I love the speed of life here. You slow down and enjoy each other. You notice moments that should be noticed. You stop to watch the sunset (from your porch, over the ocean, next to the mountains…not bad). You turn in early and get plenty of sleep. You use the weekends for weekend things. And you are home most nights by dark to just be with each other.
I love the newness and mystery of things here. We rarely know what to expect. We are outsiders discovering someone else’s normal. Wildlife. Flowers. Trees. Activities. Traditions. Habits. Rituals. New may sometimes be tiring. New may sometimes make us long for our own normal. But new is never boring.
I love the simplicity of life here. The absence of keeping up with the Jones’. No makeup? No worries. Bare walls and no coffee table décor? It’s ok. Clothes from a few years ago? They’ll do the job. No cute beach bag but rather a grocery sack? What’s the big deal. A willing heart? An open door? Loving hands? That should be plenty. I think highly of you for who you are, not what you have. It makes the beauty of human relationships so pure and whole.
I love the independent family unit my sweet Taylor and I have been able to establish. We are the Nashes. We spend weeknights and weekends together. We explore and discover. We disagree, but we can’t escape each other, so we talk it out. When we need direction, we have people that speak guidance into our lives and then it’s back to just the 2 of us, trying to apply wisdom and Scripture to our marriage. We decide our schedule, share in ministry, and we use a joint fundraised budget that can’t be compared as “his income” and “her income.” We are examining both the beautiful and the ugly things we bring to the table, the do this and the don’t do this desires for our family, and we are learning that we have much to figure out. We are far, and because of that, we are able to be separate. Not aloof. Not disconnected. Not apart. Just separate. Our own. We have been given a unique opportunity to decide what the foundation for our marriage will be without the distractions of home. I love that.
Delight. The Lord is not only filling us with the deep desire to be in His will and the peace that’s found there, but He is blessing us with little pleasures and daily happiness that bring our hearts toward praise. Today, I want to give Him glory for that. I want to come to Him in thanksgiving. He is good, all the time.