God in a fortune cookie

When our family received a call to go to Nepal as missionaries, I said “no.” It was the worst possible time–My career that was perched for possibilities would probably fizzle; my son’s intensive piano lessons that were preparing him for a career in composition would be jeopardized; my daughter’s academic goals would be crushed; and my husband would most likely be unmarketable when we returned. It simply did not make sense. And I said “no.”

But God knew better. His persistence grew stronger with my every objection. The signs I got would have put Gideon, Moses and Joseph to shame. Yet I refused. And then one Sabbath morning, away from home in the pre-Google days, my husband and I opened the Yellow Pages to find a church to attend. There were over 20 of them. So we randomly picked a church and began our drive. Less than 3 minutes on the road, I spotted a church and suggested we attend that one instead. Roy refused–his Germanic genes do not allow changes in plans. Five minutes later, I saw another church; Roy refused. Another ten minutes went by and there was another church. Roy refused. We were now late for service. By the time we got to the church, the sermon had already begun. And I was furious with Roy. Just as we sat down, the minister said, “Faith is about setting out on a journey without all the answers to your questions.” Roy nudged me in ribs. My response was silence, but I could not help but scribble the quote in my Bible.

The trip back to the hotel was long and silent. I chose to nap that afternoon to blot out the strangeness of us attending that particular church and hearing that particular message. I woke up late in the evening, hungry and miserable, feeling trapped in our hotel room. We ordered in Chinese and ate in silence. The meal ended and I broke open my fortune cookie. It said: “You will go to a strange and far away land.” In that moment I imagined God smiling and saying “Checkmate.”

Six years later, after our mission term, life was just as I had predicted–my career did fizzle, my son’s music career never happened, my daughter didn’t end up in an Ivy League school, my husband did not find a job comparable to his strengths and experience.

Yet, we gained more than we lost. My journey of faith that began with a fortune cookie took me into an experience of complete trust in God and nothing else. We survived political strife, physical hardships, poor health, emotional trials and dangerous conditions. Every day was an adrenaline rush of miracles, a continual supply of blessings. When I was able to give up my vision for myself and obey God’s call instead, God’s plans became my plans, His desires my desires. And in Him, I have found joy abundant even in the worst of times.

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