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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Baby Steps

Lao Tzu once said, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

I, however, being one who has never heard of Lao Tzu and who doesn't really care what he said, prefer to say it in a way that pays homage to one of the best movies ever made:

If you are someone who sees the meme above and has no clue what it means or why it's funny, you probably want to just stop reading now, because you and I, we'll never see eye to eye. For everyone else, you know this is Bill Murray in one of the funniest movies of all time, "What About Bob."

Bill Murray, in this movie, has to remind himself (audibly) to take "baby steps" to get through every uncomfortable situation he encounters. Obviously this puts a damper on his social life, as he's the guy audibly telling himself "baby steps." Hence the hilarity of the movie. But I digress...

Lao said a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. First off, while that is technically true, it's a rhetorical statement. DUH! Of course a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So does a journey of one mile. That's just dumb.

Anyways, aside from that, I also tend to think it's not a very accurate depiction of the realities we face throughout life's journey. Journeys that seem difficult, unknown, or even frightening, don't require a single step to guarantee carefree travels. I think they require EVERY step that's taken, because each and every step is a statement. A moving forward, toward something, in spite of the difficulty or questions or fear.

How do we usually begin journeys like these? With baby steps.

I remember when my kids were each learning to walk for the first time; it was always such a proud-mama moment. With my oldest, our daughter, we couldn't wait for her to start taking her first steps. I am pretty sure my husband and I shoved her toward each other a few times around the age of three months and claimed that she was the youngest human to walk, ever. She started walking, in reality, around 10 months old, and from that moment she was into everything. Everything. She was always headed somewhere, but she never got there fast, because she was taking baby steps. The journeys took her a while; she never slowed down, though, and never gave up, and she ultimately reached her destinations. Then, the more confident she got on her feet, the more quickly she strode, the more confidently she walked.

This is how we operate in our faith walk, isn't it? We're in the process of learning something new and God calls us out on a new journey. It always requires a first step, yes, but more than that, trusting and following His call requires baby steps. We set our minds on Him and walk with purpose toward that which He has called us. We walk slowly at first, trying to gain our footing, but the more we walk toward the prize, toward HIM, the more steady we get on our feet, the more confident we grow in who He has made us to be and where He is calling us.

My family has been in the process of taking a crazy journey with God over the last year. Almost one year ago the Lord very clearly showed my husband and I that our daughter's heart for the hurting world was tender, and that we were to take that tenderness and use it to help mold her into someone who has a deep love for mankind. Through a series of events God very clearly showed us that we were to take on a project with her this year. After praying about it with her, and after talking with a close friend who does ministry in Romania, we felt like God was making it clear that we were to help Emerson take on the challenge of raising money to build a playground for 300 Gypsy children in Romania.

INSERT MANIACAL LAUGHTER HERE (because laugh, I DID, when my friend told me that this was what God showed her that Emerson should do).

I was kinda thinking early on that maybe we'd have a coat drive for the Gypsies, or maybe collect some money to buy them bread. But no, as is usual with the Lord, His plans were bigger and more purposeful.

My friend, Mihaela, who works with the Gypsy people, felt that a playground in this specific Gypsy community would go far beyond clothing or bread to communicate the love and mercy of Jesus Christ; she had prayed for a playground to be built there for 7+ years. And we were the ones to build it and raise almost $14,000.

Three people. Two worn out parents and a six-year-old. It still sounds funny to me.

But we felt that we heard God clearly, so what did we do?

Baby steps.

We had a family car wash for our first fundraiser. I think our neighbors pitied us because it rained and we raised our first $300.

Baby steps.

Emerson made rubber band bracelets. She sold many, and one for $6000.

Baby steps.

A local elementary school's after-school Christian club heard about our project and wanted to get involved. Over 100 kids, grades kindergarten through fifth, raised well over $1000 for our playground.

Baby steps...getting bigger.

Emerson painted and sold Christmas ornaments. She sold several and raised almost $1000.

Steadier still.

Our church got involved and held two events within the children's ministry to help us raise money. Almost $1500 was raised by a bunch of five and six-year-olds.

The pace picks up.

Friends and family donated ridiculous amounts of money to help fund our trip to Romania. We leave in two days to take Emerson to go and see the playground come to life, to build it with her own hands. To play with Gypsy children to see that they are, in fact, just like her. To carry the light and love of Jesus to a hurting people by showing them that they are valued and loved and worthy of something like a brand new playground in their dirty, dusty, destitute community.

And we're running.

Running toward the plan and purpose of the Father. Running toward Him. Running with arms wide open to embrace those who are forgotten and pushed aside. Running toward a hurting world. Running.

It should have been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with baby steps. Because baby steps are how we grow, how we learn to walk. Baby steps are where our confidence is grown, our faith is matured, and His faithfulness is proven.

Whatever God is calling you to, I encourage you, lock your eyes on the goal and set out. Not having all of the answers. Not completely fearless. Not running.

Set out and take baby steps. Move. Allow Him to show Himself faithful to you. Because He will always do it. Every single time.

It may not always be a playground in a poor country. In fact, it probably won't usually be a playground in a poor country. But it will be what He has for you, and for me. And each and every time He calls, I pray that we will take baby steps in obedience toward that which He has prepared for us.

Lastly, baby steps can be a funny thing. When your first baby starts to walk you record every moment of the process and cheer on your little one with great anticipation. By the time baby number three rolls around and you've realized what complete chaos ensues when your precious little one learns to walk, you *might* find yourself swiping said baby's legs out from under him when he attempts to walk just to make sure he stays immobile for a little while longer. It's either that or duct tape.

Feel free to laugh!