My kids have grown up getting to spend a couple weeks each summer with their grandparents. I never did anything like that growing up, but both of my parents did and I know those are some of their most cherished childhood memories, so it’s been special getting to watch my kids make those same kinds of memories. We moved to Washington on August 1, 2013 so, since it was summertime, my kids went to Coeur d’Alene (in northern Idaho) to spend a few weeks with Corey’s parents. Corey was studying for the tests and licenses he needed for his new job, so I had a lot of time on my hands. Summertime in the Pacific Northwest is absolutely gorgeous and I spent a good chunk of time each morning at the beach down the street. Looking back now, how gracious of the Lord to allow my tank to be filled in moments and places like that, knowing what we were heading into…
Anyway, it was there, in that place and during that time, that the Lord gave me the story of Joshua. I grew up in church and I knew the stories of Jericho and Rahab and the song, “…and the walls came tumbling down” (about half of you sang that with me, didn’t you??), but I didn’t really know the story of Joshua intimately, like I’ve come to know it.
Here’s a quick refresher for those of you not entirely familiar with the story. Moses was the leader of the children of Israel when they made their “exodus” from slavery in Egypt. Remember the plagues? Yep, he’s the guy who was at the helm during all of that. And, ultimately, it was under Moses’ leadership that the Passover, the most important of all Jewish festivals, was enacted, when the final plague befell the Egyptians and the children (literally) of Israel were spared, prompting Pharaoh to finally let them leave Egypt. After Pharaoh changed his mind and went after them, Moses was the one who led the children of Israel across the Red Sea (the one that parted, remember?), and who could forget about the 10 Commandments that the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sanai? Anyway, after lots of miraculous and amazing things (remember the manna from Heaven?), some dishonoring things happened (the golden calf, anyone?) and there was a period of 40 years of grumbling and disobedience and wandering around the desert. Ultimately, Moses and the whole generation of men who had dishonored the Lord died and a new leader was selected to lead the children of Israel into the “Promised Land.” You guessed it, Joshua was that guy.
(Please don’t misread my CliffsNotes version of this story as being disrespectful. It’s a miraculously fascinating story that you can read for yourself in Exodus and Deuteronomy. I highly recommend it.)
Anyway, in our first few months in Washington, as I read through the book of Joshua, I saw a lot similarities to our story. We had moved to this new “land” and were looking forward to a new season of promise and conquering what was ahead of us. “Be strong and courageous!” is the overarching theme of Joshua. We’d moved to a beautiful new place, the Lord had provided my husband with a fantastic job, albeit a hard one, our kids were in a great school and we were feeling pretty ready to take on this new season. Check, check and check! Let’s do this!
Over the next couple years, I would read and re-read through the book of Joshua for wisdom, encouragement, direction. There are numerous places in Joshua in my bible that are underlined and highlighted and say things like, “This is my prayer for Corey!” in the margins. You see, when Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, they immediately saw the Lord’s provision and His hand on them as they waged battles, overcame amazing obstacles and defeated their enemies. There was no doubting the hand of the Lord was on them and they were walking with His favor, BUT, it wasn’t a cake walk. They still had to battle. They still had to fight to overcome and take the territory that was rightfully theirs. There were more wins than losses, to be sure, but there were definitely days when they got back to camp beat up, bloodied and bruised (mostly owing to times when they were disobedient). As I read these accounts I was encouraged because the first few years we were here we knew we were where the Lord had called us to be, but let me tell you that it was not an easy season. The job we moved here for Corey to take was a great job with a wonderful firm, but they generally say that if you can make it to the 5-year mark, you’ll turn the corner and be so glad you stuck it out. If you sensed that meant the first five years can be a little rough, I’ll just say that that’s putting it mildly. So yes, we’d entered a new season and we definitely felt the Lord’s hand in our lives, but it was not easy. We were still in the battling phase for those first 5 years and I was looking really forward to the place in the story where it says, “…and the Lord gave them rest on every side.”
Corey passed away 4 months before his 5-year mark.
That summer, even as we attended a work event with his firm and received his 5-year pin in his honor, I’d flip through the well-worn pages of Joshua looking at my notes, the highlighted portions, the handwritten “!!” next to a portion of scripture and think, “What in the world am I supposed to do with this now? It’s all been hard for no reason! Where’s the rest? Where’s the victory?” There was a lot of questioning and wondering, “What now?” I wasn’t questioning if we were where we were supposed to be, I knew we were, I just didn’t understand why I’d felt so strongly, so surely, that we were heading into a land of opportunity and a season of conquering and victory, when it sure didn’t look victorious staring at a gravestone and a new life as a single mom.
Every fall our pastor does a 60-day teaching series and “spiritual growth challenge.” As the marketing and communications director for our church, I get the details early so we can prepare the media pieces for the series. So when I saw that Pastor Rob was doing Joshua this fall, I got super excited. I was really looking forward to a fresh perspective on this book I’d come to love and study and wonder at. He called the series, “Conquer” because that’s essentially what Joshua is all about. He leads the Children of Israel across the Jordan River and conquers the land the Lord has promised to His people. Again, check, check and check! “This is going to be good!”
When they asked me if I thought I might be willing to share part of our story during the series, it caught me a little off guard and I definitely had to take some time to think about it. I loved this story. It was very personal to me and I still believed that the Lord had given me this story. But, like I said, I was at the point where I had more questions than answers about how in the world this story applied to me, to us, now, and I think it was a good couple weeks before I answered them. Of course, I’ve shared my story through this blog and in some women’s events at our church, but this was a greater level of exposure and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. It was during my trip to Cuba this summer, and even after I got home, that the Lord began to show me some things in a new light and I knew this was something I needed to do.
From the very first day Corey was diagnosed with cancer, I have said that this is the Lord’s story. I have asked Him to use us, use me, use our experiences, both good and bad, for His glory. All I want is for Corey’s death to mean that people have the opportunity at life. Eternal life. So, with that in mind, here’s the clip of our story they showed in church a couple weekends ago.
So that’s where I am now. Rather than working my way toward the end of the story and “rest on every side,” I find myself just having crossed the proverbial Jordan and leading a band of young fighters into a land I still believe is full of promise and provision and, yes, even of battles and overcoming. But you know what? I know that the Lord still goes before me and that if I remain obedient and open to His version of how this story plays out, I’ll be OK. And so will these amazing young soldiers falling in behind and next to me. My kids turn 11 and 13 this month. They’re not little anymore and they’re in this battle with me – and I am humbled and honored to be their leader. And, truth be told, even a little bit terrified of it. But my role in this story isn’t Plan B for the Lord. He knows exactly where we’re going and what we need to be successful along the way. I’ll be honest and tell you that there are days I drag my butt into “camp,” feeling bloodied, bruised and like a total failure. But because the stakes are too high not to, I dig deep, sometimes calling on those voices of reason and wisdom, taking a good walk, or reading through the promises I know I’ve been given, and I find that grit and courage Joshua challenged me – and all of us – to find. So, sore, tired and scraped up, I get up and battle on, leaning into the ONE who can help me to be truly strong and courageous.
[If you’re interested in watching some of the fantastic messages in this Conquer series, click here. I know you’ll be super encouraged.]