It’s Sunday morning and I’m searching my closet for a white cardigan to wear to church. I don’t have one, so I sigh, lift it to the Lord, move on quietly with my day.
Later that afternoon, my mother-in-law stops by. She has a blue plastic bag full of clothes.
I look into the bag and – could it be? Amongst other pieces of clothing, I see a beautiful, white cardigan sweater.
I laugh, and then I cry. Why would the God of the Universe care about this small thing? I hadn’t even really prayed about it. It had just been surrendered. Much like a boat surrenders to the waves.
And yet, God cared. Even as He carries the boat to the other side.
This is the art of radical rest. It’s something I’ve been learning since the year I flew home to take care of my mother who had brain cancer.
It was 2007. I was standing in my mother’s garden, trying to weed her many beautiful flowers, while she lay comatose in her bed. I’d flown home from South Korea where my husband and I had been teaching English. As soon as he’d found out how bad she was, he’d said, “Go. I’ll finish up our contract.” He’s a good man, that one.
So I stood there amongst the hydrangeas and lilies, and that’s when I heard Him. My Heavenly Father. He said, Watch me take care of you. At the time, Trent and I needed to purchase a house near my parents, but I couldn’t find one in our price range. That afternoon, a woman drove into my parents’ driveway and told me about a house that was up for a private sale, one I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. We bought it and lived in it for three years.
Fast forward seven years to the inception of The Lulu Tree. Watch me take care of you, Jehovah continued to whisper. And so month after month, we surrendered awkwardly to the waves, a little boat crashing about, carrying a few mamas and babies. And the boat always reached the other side.
One time, when funds were low, I gave in to temptation and tried to raise funds at a local conference. I only managed to raise a mere $20, and the hand of God was heavy on me in the gentlest of ways. Watch me take care of you, He said again.
Then there was the night after my Mum’s funeral. I received a text from our treasurer, saying we didn’t have enough funds to send the wire. I just bowed right there by the washing machine, a mess of nerves and fatigue, and I cried to my Father, big gulping tears. The next morning I got another text from the treasurer, saying a partner had called her and said God had told him there was a deficit, and he wanted to fill it.
Friends, we serve a big God who cares about small details.
Do you not know? Isaiah writes. Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength. (40:28-31)
There is one place in Scripture which tells us to strive.
“Make every effort, therefore, to enter this rest…” the writer of Hebrews tells us. (Heb. 4:11)
Ironically, we are to STRIVE to enter God’s REST. We are to make every effort to essentially stop making any effort whatsoever, and simply rejoice.
Recently, the Lord unfolded a great provision for The Lulu Tree. After years of praying for a simple, excellent, sustainable model for families to follow, God brought two godly men who work for Cargill to humbly suggest implementing Poultry Education Centers as a way for impoverished communities to be equipped through the local church.
As they describe:
The objective would be to provide our partnering pastors and the people in their villages with the skills to work on their own farms by volunteering and getting hands-on experience working at the community Poultry Education Center. This way we are training pastors to care for spiritual needs, providing the community with vocational training, and meeting physical needs of families, all in a system that could be sustainable and self-sufficient.
Our pilot projects could fund the theological training we provide to pastors. Families from the church community would volunteer at the PEC to get hands-on experience of raising chickens. The idea would be to use the income generated from the PEC to provide financial support to the church (20%), and funding for volunteers at the PEC to start their own Poultry Farms (80%). Families that receive grant money for their own Poultry Farm would then tithe 10% to the church and 10% for the first year would go back to the PEC to provide grants for additional families to start farms.”
It’s beautiful that God brought these men. We didn’t seek them out. God also brought the strategy. Even as He’s always provided the men, women and children we seek to help, and the funds with which to do it.
Even as we speak, a pilot poultry project is emerging in the poorest place in the world – Burundi. A second one is on its way in Venezuela.
I know these are hard times, friends. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in high prices. But then I reach up and God takes my hand and pulls me back into the boat and He carries me, so very gently, across the waters. As I know He’ll carry you.
Watch me take care of you, He says. And He will. I’ve got a white cardigan sweater and a decade of Lulu Tree miracles to remind me.