Enjoying a New Phase of Life
By the end of July, Ty and I will have been married 24 years. My job of homeschooling our two daughters from pre-k all the way through high school ended over two years ago. We just married off our eldest and, it won’t be long until the younger is also queen of her own home. We praise God that they both profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior and have each surrendered to be sent to the foreign mission field.
We have called eight different addresses home, three of those brand-new homes which we completely tuned to our own liking. Ty has had two successful careers and has moved his entire family from Northern California to Northern Georgia without any waiting job at all! We have served in many different churches in nearly every capacity: nursery through adult Sunday schools, cleaning and maintenance, college campus ministries, jail ministry, Vacation Bible Schools, choir, Bible studies, one-on-one discipleship, missions trips, and missionary yoke fellows.
We will turn 49 and 46 on our next birthdays and have come into a great stage of life where we can look back, and by the grace and goodness of God, relish many successes and failures that have made us who we are today. It’s a good time to relax, slow down, and enjoy our settled life, right? Think again!
Inspired by “Radicals”
We first met the Tolsons in 2009 when they came through our church on deputation raising their needed funds to get to the mission field. I liked them a lot, but I honestly thought that he was insane to plant churches in China with his beautiful bride and their baby girl. I remember wanting to help and encourage them because I thought they were just so “out there!” I thought, “They’re willing to be missionaries to China and I’m not, so I’ll just be a really good sender on their behalf! Good luck! God speed! Praying for ya, crazy Tolsons!” We looked forward to each update, watched them gain their support, and even went to their send-off service at Vision Baptist Church before we became members there ourselves. Little did I know how much of an impact getting to know all these missionaries would have on my life and the lives of each member of our family.
To say that God works and moves in our lives in ways that are beyond our comprehension is an understatement. He brought about circumstances, trials, people, places, and events all to prepare us for this new thing. It is so evident now that I’m able to look back. While the Tolsons were hard at work in language school in Northeast China, and then moving on to begin a church plant, God was growing and working in us as well. We prayerfully moved forward to becoming members of Vision which opened our eyes further to missions and the great need of getting the Gospel around the world.
Sensing My Need to Change
As God would have it, the lives of each of us Pepperdines (Emma is now a Becker) were coming up short in view of God’s Great Commission. Ty’s awesome stay-at-home job, complete with a million different benefits, just didn’t seem so shiny and special anymore. We both may not have admitted it, but, every time our church commissioned new missionaries or had a sending service, we were always a little (maybe a lot) jealous.
Visiting the Tolsons in China and the Gardners in Peru really changed our perspective. We saw that church-planting on the foreign field was not only doable, but could be carried out by normal folk just like us. God is always the One bringing about the results for His honor and glory. These visits to the mission field kept Ty thinking, “Yeah, we’re not as young as these missionaries, but I bet we could do this. Wouldn’t it be great to be church-planters too?” I would just laugh and think to myself, “Oh great! Both our daughters have surrendered to full-time missions and now my husband is losing his mind/surrendering to the mission field?!” The conflict inside of me was growing; I both loved and hated the idea of being a missionary.
I loved my role at Vision, serving as a deacon’s wife, helping out with all the church events, being involved with the teens and one-on-one discipleship with other ladies. I also loved having grown daughters, watching them minister in the church, fight through their individual trials, and being thoroughly helpful around our home. I had already been working hard at trusting God with their lives as I knew they each want to be missionary wives and live who-knows-where someday. So much was changing with Emma graduating college and getting married, and Abbi working towards her teaching degree. Extended family conflicts had been growing; two of my grandmothers died recently and I wasn’t told for weeks after the fact. There were both so many good and bad life events happening at the same time, that I had begun to feel a bit uncertain and unstable. I was glad that at least everything else was still the same, like Ty’s job, our home-life, and church. Think again!
Surrendering My Plans
For the past few years, in my time alone with Him, I sensed God wanted to tell me something more. He desired to draw me deeper into trusting Him and follow after Him into more challenging places both spiritually and physically. This required me to actually put His promises and principles into practice. I had to step out in faith to know if He really is who He says He is. I never quite let Him get to that point in our conversations. Kind of like when you’re having a phone conversation with someone and you suddenly “need to go now!” and end your talk rather abruptly. God was always so patient and gentle with me. I had been praying for years for God to use me in any way He desired, and He helped me finally to know His will for this next phase in my life. I had begun to realize that my days living as a settled mid-lifer were ending even as they were beginning.
December 31, 2016, was the day that changed the course of my life. We attended our church’s Summit on world evangelism which we had done for the past few years, Ty couldn’t handle one more plea for laborers to the harvest without becoming one himself. It was the last day of the last session and the last time this plea would be made before we departed. Ty turned to me with tears in his eyes. I knew what was coming, and everything inside of me was screaming, “No! You’re ruining all my plans! You’re taking away all that I want to be a part of at Vision. I want to be around for our girls as they get married and start having kids! You’re messing everything up!” But then a better, more sure voice of love and authority took over, and I was reminded quickly of my Good Shepherd’s faithfulness to me. He has always taken such good care of me and Ty has been a wonderful husband. It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through your head in less than five seconds! When Ty finally spoke, he asked me if we could become full-time missionaries to the country of China. I was able to agree.
Unsettled yet Satisfied Following Him
Since then, my Good Shepherd, Jesus, has been caring for us. He brought me through Ty quitting his great job, a major source of security for me as a wife. Emma’s graduated college and got married just a few weeks after. There were many other challenges that I thought might break me as we entered full-time deputation. But I’m OK. In fact, I’m really quite good!
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Mat 6:28-34
I have NO idea how this is all going to work. We will selling our home, figure out what to do with all our belongings, and get Abbi through two more years of college. We will deal with extended family, move to China, attend language school, and so on. My brain will explode if I try to get a handle on it all right now. I am truly living one day at a time by all the promises of my Savior. I get to actually know for myself if Matthew 6:28-34 is really true. I’m pretty excited about that even if I have been called out of my empty nest to the foreign mission field.