A friend suggested that I get with McKenzie Brown to hear her Brave Story and I'm really blown away by it. It ministers to my heart so much, not only with dealing with heart break when I was younger, but also with learning to listen to God and to lean not on my own understanding when it comes to my walk through life. This Brave Story should minister deeply to all the girls out there who are learning lean into God when it comes to finding out who you are instead of to a man. McKenzie, I'm so glad we've gotten to connect and that you were able to put into words your amazing Brave Story!
I grew up in a wonderful Christian home. My mom and dad have portrayed the most Christ-like marriage and family life that I could ever hope to have as my foundation. They always encouraged our different interests and passions, mine largely and oddly being western heritage and lifestyle. While our contact with that world could be summed up into one day a year, when we went to the Ft. Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, I was near a horse every chance I could at our neighbor's. As well as I would read all I could about cowboys, anything to do with the west and both of their rich histories.
In 2010 had just gotten back from roughly 6 months of missions, with YWAM's Cowboys With A Mission. I lived in Wyoming for a few months, being taught different tangents of Christianity, missions, the nature of God, and a lot about my incredible need for Him. We did some things locally in the community, did a weekly outreach to the cowboy community, lots of riding, and I dove deeper in my walk with our Father. Our group then went to Costa Rica for several months to put our teaching into action. It was here that we (to just touch on a few highlights) worked with schools, put on a rodeo bible camp, ministered to street children & the homeless, lived in a village, milked cows every day, put on weekly steer & bull ridings, gave Bibles to people who had never even held one, played a lot of soccer, and shared Christ's redeeming Gospel whenever we could. It was an awesome adventure that ruined me for the ordinary.
Coming back home was very hard, I did not adjust well, and sought to go back to Wyoming as quickly and as easily as I could. I found a little job cleaning cabins for a place, where I could ride, and be in one of the prettiest places in the state. I met a guy, while working there, who would have been great - on paper. He had some qualities I liked, was interested in things I liked, and got the thumbs up from my friends that he was alright. Despite the Holy Spirit's cautions, however, I fell hard for him and we had a fun summer together. We both returned to our respective homes at the end of summer, and saw each other afterwards, meeting each other's families, etc. Soon, though, my heart was broken and trampled, promises being broken and trusts lost. He called one day to say, "adoios." Never experiencing this type of pain before, I ran to where I should have been constantly abiding, already - in the Father's arms. I wanted answers, but God had already provided them, through His faithful Word and, to me specifically, through Proverbs 3:5-6......
"Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."
Each time I questioned His will and the events surrounding me, He gently replied with this scripture. I began to see to it that my heart was lined up with Him, in order for His will to become my will, and to be better used by Him.
After many weeks of soul searching, hashing out, and praying, I was invited to go on a mission trip that was focused on an area of our world that is widely exploited, but not easily seen - Human Trafficking in Cambodia. A country God had spoken to me about, by only its name, almost a year previously while in YWAM. However, I did not want to go there. Asia in general did not look appealing to me, but God soon made it clear I should go. My only, but giant, set back was finances. I mentioned my tentative plans to a friend, who generously insisted that he wanted to pay for my trip-through his rodeo winnings. I was speechless. After several conversations and reassurances, he told me to make all the plans, and let him pay it, as it was going to be his tithe-according to him. Two weeks later, my plans were all set, when I received a phone call from my travel agent.
Payment? Where was it? It had not been received and it was due within the hour. I was conveniently not able to get in contact with my "friend", either, as I soon saw the web of lies that had been told to me. I was horrified and embarrassed. I stepped outside of my office at work, to cancel all my plans, when God's sovereign hand intervened. My new boss of only a couple months produced his credit card, gave me free & total reign to pay for my trip, and told me to not say another word as he would not accept re-payment or an argument. I was in tears at God's greatness & provision.
Again, I cried out to God. I was angry, furious, embarrassed to have trusted someone, only to be played the fool. Each time I implored, God replied with Proverbs 3:5-6. I threw all of my energy into my trip, and saved parting words for this "friend" for after my return. Through my trip to Cambodia, God showed me just how raw humanity is and its need for Salvation. It was beautifully ugly, and was a clear picture of our great need for Christ. I saw women who had been sold by their families to pay their own bills, for sex, raped hundreds of times, forced to abort their babies, beaten, and treated like dogs by being chained up, who had found Christ and were completely made new through His redeeming love. I played with children whose mothers spent their days picking up trash, only to go home to live in dumps, and yet were as happy as could be. I met Catholic nuns who gave up their entire lives, in order to care for babies, children, and adults, who all had AIDS, thanks to the UN's "Peace Officers" bringing it in after the Khmer Rogue (Cambodia's own type of holocaust where millions were killed in the 70's) was defeated. I was amazed at their great needs, and God's great provisions for His children.
Coming back from Cambodia, I was dedicated to finding my purpose in the season of life I was in. I decided to fully live out being single, got more involved in my church, and deepened my relationship with God. I went so far as to order books on being single and using my time for God's glory. Ironically and with thanks to God's humor, my books arrived the same day I met my, now, husband Gary. He was a bull rider and horse trainer from Florida, rodeoing in Texas. He had newly become a Christian and had most recently been praying for a Christian friend. Setting a foundation down for our friendship, we got to know each other slowly. I was quizzing people about him, letting friends quiz me about him, looking for any red flags, and doing lots of praying. We became fast friends, but before I would take any further steps, I went on another short trip Cambodia, late in 2011.
There, I just knew that God would work, both in the people I was with and in my personal life. I knew that during that time He would confirm things for me, and that I would know for sure if Gary was meant to be mine. Being the ever faithful Father, God did all of that. Each and every question or concern I had were confirmed and shown to me throughout my trip. He would gently remind me of Proverbs 3:5-6, and then reveal His answers. Through ministering to people, sharing my heart with others, seeking wisdom of others I was with, and writing back and forth to Gary, I began to see what God had planned. I saw Gary's heart towards me & for Christ and there is simply not a more beautiful thing to see than that. A man serving God, and loving you as a daughter of The King is something that I wish every woman could come to know. It is a beautiful love to have and be blessed with. For me, eleven days later when I came back, I was in love.
5 years later, we are amazed at where our lives have taken us. We did our best to honor God and His will for us as a couple, before marriage, and not a day goes by that we regret this decision. We are working on year 4 of marriage and celebrating our baby girl's first birthday next month. We are each other's best friends, enjoying life's simple pleasures together, and are both so grateful that we did not take the easy roads in our walks with God, as He has and is, undeservingly blessing us, despite how rough life can get for us.
While it is something I all too easily forget, I know that He lays my path out and directs my steps. I can rest in the knowledge that His sovereign hand is on our lives, and that no matter what, He still loves and protects us. He puts desires and dreams in our hearts, and is glorified through bringing them to fruition, as it is only Him alone that could orchestrate our lives in such a way.
David Livingston was a missionary in Africa and was very wise. Out of all his quotes I find the most comfort in this one of his: "The safest place to be, is in the center of God's will." Whether I'm walking the depraved streets of Cambodia, raising a baby in East Texas, visiting a remote village in Costa Rica, or being a home maker for my family, no location is safer than any other, so long as I'm where He wants me & He is being glorified.
Psalms 91:4-5 "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day."