Enter the Mystery, Abandon Yourself to God

Jesus Christ was only a swear word to me for the first 19 years of my life. All that changed one Sunday morning at a little church on the outskirts of Eugene, Oregon. I was ambushed by the love of Jesus. The entire course of my life was altered in what seemed to be a moment. To say I knew nothing about the Christian life would be an astonishing understatement. Were it not for CCC staff women at the University of Oregon, I don’t think, humanly speaking, I would have made it. Having come from a very raucous background, I fear I would have returned to my wild ways.

As a single woman, I learned to read my Bible, pray, share my faith, and see friends come to Christ. From the first, I had the unfolding conviction that this was the very best way to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for saving me from certain destruction.” That sense of overwhelming gratitude continues to be a primary motivation to stay in ministry through all the seasons of my life.

Bob and I joined staff after 3 years of marriage. How we loved going on campus together and seeing all the ways God was graciously using us! When we’d been married 5 years, our first child, Bryan, arrived, and my Bible study moved from the campus to my living room. The extent of my direct involvement with students decreased, but my passion for college ministry did not. God always provided ways for me to keep my heart connected to students. As we moved to regional leadership roles, my ministry shifted from students to our staff moms. Wives retreats, phone calls, vision trips all kept my heart engaged. I just kept writing my thank you card to Jesus even when our second child, Brooke, was born.

More opportunities for giving back to the Lord emerged as I spoke at retreats in the States and abroad and as I taught Bible studies at the various churches we attended around the U.S. When my nest emptied some 7 years ago, I was surprised to receive from God yet another way to express my supreme love and gratefulness to him—through writing books, Bible studies, and magazine articles.

So you see, whether single, married, a mom, or an empty-nester, I’ve wanted nothing but to see more and more people enter the mystery of abandoning themselves to God—and he has provided the means—but not without significant changes in my thinking and believing over the years: Was I doing enough ministry? Was I doing too much ministry at the expense of my family? I had to do the hard work of examining my motives behind my ministry involvements and identifying any (guilt, works-based righteousness, comparison to others) which threatened to sabatoge my real heart behind what I was doing: expressing my love for the one who loved me.

from The Message:

I waited and waited and waited for God.

At last he looked; finally he listened.

He lifted me out of the ditch,

pulled me from deep mud.

He stood me up on a solid rock

to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,

a praise-song to our God.

More and more people are seeing this:

they enter the mystery,

abandoning themselves to God.

  • http://www.goffeneys.blogspot.com Kyra Goffeney

    I really appreciate your honesty, Barbara. It sounds like God radically changed your life in college and has been using your story to impact the lives of others ever since. What I really enjoyed were the questions you posed at the end: “Was I doing enough ministry? Was I doing too much ministry at the expense of my family?” I feel that tension almost weekly as I balance the needs of my home with the needs to be a good steward of my role as a staff member. What I’ve been convicted of lately is that my priorities need to be God (my relationship with Him), family (husband and children) and then my outside-of-the-home ministry. When I start to switch up any of those and get those out of place, I become less effective in all 3. Especially as a mom with younger children, I believe my involvement and investment in the ministry must look radically different than it did as a married staff without kids.

    Thanks for showing us that in different seasons of life, though our roles on campus might change, our passion and heart for the mission doesn’t have to.

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      Kyra, love your committment to the Lord first. When that is in place life just runs better–not perfectly–but better. Be patient with yourself as a mom. I had trouble doing that. When God sees our heart as ready to be used by him, he will. Blessing on you. Barbara

  • http://campusministryguy.blogspot.com/ Guy Chmieleski

    Barbara,

    What a fantastic testimony! I love that your view of ministry is simply “a thank you to Jesus!” IF only we could all – always – see our work and calling in this same light – whether working with college students, loving and leading in our families, whatever the task God has called us to… simply to respond to Him with a “thank you” in obedient action and willing spirit.

    Thank you for this great reminder, challenge and encouragement!

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      Guy, I have just never gotten over the grand love of God to save one like me. What is your story? Barbara

  • http://www.thebarelafamily.com Aubrey

    Hi Barbara! Great to hear you story and how God has encouraged you and given you opportunities along the way no matter what stage of life you have been in.

    Like Kyra I struggle finding the balance of being at home and when and where to be involved in campus ministry. Some weeks it works sometimes not. I have come to find a peace in realizing that with 3 young kids at home, though I am on staff my first ministry is to my family. If it works to do campus ministry great, if not than I let it go. It is easy for me to compare myself to other families and staff moms, wondering if I’m doing too much or too little.

    Thanks for sharing today!

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      Your welcome, Aubruy. Thanks for being honest with your stuggles. I think that is half the battle–getting real with what is going on inside of us. That way we can catch compairson, envy, and jealousy in the bud. You are doing great!

  • http://inkindle.wordpress.com/ Judy Douglass

    Barbara, kindred spirit. Different stories. Same passions. Keep praying, keep speaking, keep writing. I always learn from you.

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      You are such a treasure, dear one. Always quick to encourage. I love that about you.

  • Jenn Lamb

    I agree with Kyra, those questions at the end where just what I needed as baby number two is coming any day. I have been anticipating this to be a hard transition and for Jesus to rock my world. But this has been an encouraging word. Thank you.

    And Kyra thank you for the reminder of our priorities. I “know” the order of those priorities but reading that in your post was a fresh reminder.

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      Lord, I pray you would be the gentle guide for Jenn as she has baby #2. Give her your joy, courage, hope, and grace. Surprise her with the sweetest baby ever. Blessing on you, Jenn.

  • http://peekabooglimpses.blogspot.com Julie Hufstetler

    Thank you, Barbara. I have much room to grow as a woman, wife, and momma. But when I just keep sitting at His feet, grateful for any way He uses me…I am reminded of His love and humbled that He uses me at all.

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      Julie, isn’t that a blessing of being a follower of Jesus? We always have room to grow–an that is exactly where he wants us to be. He loves you and is so thrilled with your heart to seek him.

  • http://equipping4eministry.wordpress.com/ Sus Schmitt

    Thank you, Barbara, for your sensitive, personal style… and here comes practical me offering for our women to take advantage of
    http://equipping4eministry.wordpress.com/ to learn ANY technology tools you may need to help you with your ministry. Would you like to send attractive email to donors, disciple students through the Coaching Center, answer emails through GMO, have a blog ministry, etc.? This blog is here to help YOU.

    • http://www.BarbaraFrancis.comwww.graceandguts.net Barbara Francis

      Hey Sus, yes indeed, you practical one, I will check it out. I want to keep learning so thanks for the push!!

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