I like for life to be neat and tidy, don't you? I enjoy a spontaneous trip (to the grocery, to a restaurant, to a luxurious vacation spot, or a friend's house), and I even enjoy unexpected company - when their expectations are equally low. But, for the most part, for the smooth-running of the day-to-day routine, I like to know what's coming, what my part in it is, and have plenty of time to prepare for it.
My life, after all, is not really made up of day-to-day routines. I sort of hop and skip from one event to another, barely able to catch my breath from this 10-concert tour in order to prepare music and teachings for the next conference, even while I am arranging airfare and entry visas for a team of 13 to go to Africa, while we are hosting local events and investigating opportunities for partnerships in another country or three. Not very routine, at all. And maybe that's why I like for things to be as neat and tidy as possible.
So, we have a fairly orderly schedule: At 7 am, I have devotions with my son, and by 7:30 am, he begins home school with my colleague and her son, studying Bible, history, and science. Meanwhile, I am off to work. At 8:30, another colleague arrives to teach math to the boys, and the first colleague takes off for work. At 9:30, colleague #2 brings the boys to the office, where I spend about 90 minutes teaching language arts (spelling, Latin, grammar, etc.), and she begins her work-work.
From there, we go about a fairly routine work day, except that it's rarely routine. The boys participate in the home school band, sports, Scouts, and church activities, so we take turns shuttling them here and there. And because our work is consumed with ministry to people, our "regular" routine is regularly interrupted with phone calls, luncheons, and other meetings to encourage, counsel, and work out the details of upcoming ministry encounters.
In all earnestness, I might tell someone that I will get a packet of music to them by such-and-such a day, but find that nearly impossible when I am called to sing for the funeral of a friend, or make changes to the application so the entry Visas can be approved on time, or need to stop to talk for a couple of hours with a friend who is hurting. My neat and tidy little world just keeps spilling through the cracks!
For instance, we had a lovely 2-week vacation this year that encompassed Christmas and the New Year. Our home is the go-to gathering place for holidays, so we expected 17 one day, and 27 the next. Influenza gripped several family members, and we had only 11 the first day and 16 the next, and our family photo reflected this season of sickness. I took advantage of the opportunity to rest and did very little that could be called work.
And what happened? The day before we were to go back to work, my throat and ears started hurting, and sure enough, I had an ear infection. I've missed only one day of work this week, but already, I feel behind. That wasn't helped by the call I received from Africa this morning at 4 a.m., necessitating a very early morning departure for the office. It is now 6:20 a.m., and I have already completed 2 projects. I have my fingers crossed that I can slip out of the office before 5 p.m. today. (That's our daily target; it's often more like 6:30 or later; last night, it was 6:45.)
Okay, I sound like I'm complaining, and I'm really not. I like this quirky, difficult-to-predict, always-something-new way of living. I get very tired on days like this, when I'm not feeling quite up-to-par, and my sleep is interrupted, and I can get grumpy and short-tempered when I feel that I am disappointing others or about to miss an important deadline. But this is the reality of my life and I wouldn't trade it for a more predictable routine for anything in the world.
When I first answered God's call to ministry, one of the verses that He seemed to illuminate was Hebrews 11:8 - "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." Those words first ping-ponged around in my heart and mind in about 1983, and I've been "going out" ever since, often with only the very next step clearly in sight. No, let me phrase that differently -- sometimes I know only that I need to pick up my foot but I still don't have any idea where I am to set it down!
What amazes me is that when I arrive at a resting spot along the way -- say, a concert tour, or a mission trip, or a women's retreat or revival here in the U.S. -- I am delighted to find that all of the pieces have come together beautifully and God pours out His Spirit in sweet abundance. And, no, you didn't read that wrong -- the resting places come for me when I arrive to do ministry. In fact, we laugh that when we get in the van or on an airplane to leave for a ministry event, we heave a huge sigh of relief and begin to relax.
2013 promises to be no different than the last 32 years of fulltime itinerant ministry. I will travel to the other side of the world at least twice, possibly 3 times, visiting as many as 7 other countries, maybe more. We will continue to build up the local outreach we have begun, attempting to reach those who shy-away from church but want and need to know that God loves them. And we are seeking God for a clear definition of what our ministry should look like between home and the other side of the globe -- those women's retreats and revivals and conferences that have been our bread and butter for 30 years.
The moss doesn't grow on us or around us - we move too fast and often for that. And sometimes I despair that I will ever be able to get and keep things neat and tidy, on my desk, in my home, in my inbox, or in my mind. But then I remember this other verse that has bounced around in my heart for 30-plus years: "He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me." (Psalm 18:19) Things may not be all neat and tidy, but my goodness, there's plenty of room here. And He is here. That will do.