Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yes and No...

When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia [in Asia], but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, "Cross over to Macedonia and help us!" After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them (Acts 16:7-10, HCSB). [This became the first recorded entrance of the gospel of Jesus Christ into Europe.]
When we married, we "tried to go" to India as missionaries. Prayer and research had pointed us in that direction for our home base from which to train church leaders in that nation and the countries to the east. We had spent a month in New York City receiving training in cross-cultural ministry to Hindus; I had learned to tie a sari and cook curry; we became mostly vegetarian; we had begun to learn Hindi with Rosetta Stone software.

In the last six months of our preparations, we shifted gears to move to Bangkok instead. I don't remember exactly how that happened, whether perhaps visa issues influenced us, only that circumstances and the inner witness of the Spirit said no to one and yes to the other.

A decade ago, after a library purge that still makes me wince and the even more difficult good-byes to family and Steinway, we moved to Bangkok to live. Eleven months of language study and medical appointments later, we moved back to Texas to my hometown. Through lupus symptoms and difficulty obtaining a diagnosis, God said no again.

Even though the responsibility for the decision ultimately lay with Allen and the return made medical and relational sense, I felt tremendous guilt as well as grief about the turn of events. Our return meant redirection of a whole team who had intended to join us later and Allen's redirection to a new career, as our sending agency did not have a position available in the home office.

We adjusted, more or less, to that new normal, but God's "no" still lingered in our hearts, or at least in mine.

In December 2005 Allen served with others from our church in New Orleans. They "mucked out" Katrina-ravished homes in preparation for rebuilding. During the long drive and hard work, he became friends with his co-workers.

Early in 2006 the youth minister called Allen on the phone. One of the men from that trip happened to host a high school Bible study in his home. The youth minister happened to need help and an occasional substitute teacher for the study, and the man happened to recommend Allen.

When Allen talked to me about it, if memory serves, he said something Nathanael-like, "Youth?! Can anything good come from youth ministry? We don't even need to pray about it, do we? That's not our strength."

The invitation was initially just for a come-and-see visit to meet the young people in question. I had actually enjoyed working in a high school for a year, so I suggested that we didn't really have anything to lose just by visiting one week. Who knew? It might not be so bad as he thought.

We did visit, and the students were an amazing, unique group. We were Tailor-made for each other. Very soon after that first visit, Allen taught the class alone. Not long after that, the youth director was reassigned to children's ministry and we received sole responsibility for this group.

Thus the Tuesday Night Tangent Society was born. At first, that was my private nickname for them because of our corporate proclivity to go off-topic and chase rabbits of distraction. Allen accidentally let the moniker slip at a meeting, and the youth latched hold of it. We even had t-shirts made. (I'm wearing mine now.) Appropriately, we often ended up meeting on Thursdays instead.

During the next 3 1/2 years, multiple youth directors came and went (with much weeping and gnashing of teeth), and the youth's favorite worship service was canceled at short notice. We turned out to be their most stable non-family adult influence for the majority of their high school careers. Allen even co-led them on a mission trip to Guatemala before all was said and done.

Now several are in college. One is himself a missionary. Another is a firefighter. They were a blessing to us and, I hope, we to them. We finally saw the yes behind the no.

But it all started with a no.

Your turn:
Have you ever received a no from God that later turned out to be a yes to something completely different and perhaps better? How did that affect your trust in Him? Alternately, are you in a no season right now and waiting for that yes to follow? If you wish to comment, please, let's encourage each other in His faithfulness.


  1. Powerful testimony! It is so easy for us to define terms of service, even if only in our spirits. That Potter/Clay relationship can still become blurred in my mind when I don't simply answer, "Yes, Lord," but instead, run ahead in my thoughts, defining what I think "my" job should look like, feel like. When all the time, all I need do is whisper, "Yes, Lord," always knowing that He does know best. Daily dying. That IS my job. :)

  2. Preach it, sister! :) Good words. Thank you.

  3. What an amazing path God has provided you all, and many others as a result. The Tangent Society name is great. I often thinks the tangents are when the real stuff happens. Certainly seems to be true in your journey. Glad the Master Weaver uses His wise no and what look like tangents to us to accomplish His good. Beautiful story here.

  4. after an anomalously busy week, it's a treat to catch up on your posts on the weekend! in particular, it's great to hear some of your "backstory". in my own life, i can't think of any dramatic 'no's' along the lines of St. Paul's, or yours and Allen's. but not all that long ago, i did go through (what at least felt like) a long period in which i felt increasingly spent and grey. tho' i did at least some of the obvious things--more prayer, more reading of Scripture--nothing seemed to make the greyness go away, and my efforts, rather than being redoubled, languished. then, after i'm not sure how long, one sunday (at church) everything was different. quite suddenly and unexpectedly, i felt completely wrapped up in grace--filled up with God's love so that i might be (joyfully) poured out. anyway, i've sometimes wondered: did God let the bleak period go on until after my (unimpressive) efforts to make things better had wound down, to underscore how little hangs on my efforts, and how much every good and perfect thing comes from above? if so, God's not ('immediately') answering my prayers for the bleakness go away may have been a kind of 'no'--or at least 'not yet'--that had a wonderful 'yes' behind it...

    when you consider the blessings downstream from your return from Asia, don't forget the abundant ones we crumbles get from your blog!

  5. You are so kind in your comments, Professor Chris.

    Thank you for sharing of your dry, grey time. This is so common an experience I almost wonderful if it's required coursework. Certainly I can nod my head in agreement, and numerous author names also come to mind.

    God does do/allow many things which show up our poverty of spirit and the richness of His grace. As you say, certainly there is a marvelous yes behind them. I don't know the whys of these "dark night" times, but Lewis's bit about the "troughs" in Letter 8 of Screwtape has been greatly encouraging to me. (If you need a more specific reference, let me know, but I somehow doubt you will.)

    The posthumous Mother Teresa book, entitled "Come Be My Light," I think, also has helped in a different way. Her felt sense of God's presence disappeared shortly after she embarked on the founding of Sisters of Charity, and it never returned to the end of her life. This understandably caused her great anguish, but she settled on the response of a yes to God and a big smile to the people He brought.

    I'm glad the joy and felt sense of God's grace did return in your case. It has been my prayer for you lately that the holidays would afford extra, unexpected time with your daughters for you and Mrs. Hughes.

    Grace and peace to you in Jesus!


Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.