I will never leave you or forsake you, Hebrews 13:5, July 29, 1994, New York City. It’s written on the back of a flattened Super Bubble wrapper in black ink in my familiar cursive. I forgot about it, until today.
Eighteen years ago, Misha and I sat cross-legged on the floor in a circle with teen girls, leading morning devotions before serving soup to the homeless in Brooklyn. She feels prompted by the Holy Spirit to do this exercise of writing on wrinkled bubblegum paper, tucking truth between bible pages to remember.
We help lead one of several teams hosting summer outreach opportunity for teens across America, launching Youth Explosion, a ministry of Youth With a Mission.
That moment resurfaced while praying for my daughter this morning. Yesterday the alarm went off at 3:00am. A trip to the airport before sunrise, two flights, and a four-hour bumpy bus ride later, I receive a text message at 6:38pm saying she arrives with her peers in Jamaica safe and sound. That’s all I know. So I’m praying.
When I recall that bubblegum wrapper, I search in my nightstand for the bible I used during that outreach with girls her age all those years ago. That red, blue and yellow rectangle of waxy, it falls right out onto the floor. I haven’t reached for that particular bible in three years. The way if falls out like God saying, “here, this is what I’m showing you,” it gives me goose bumps. Or as my friend Jennifer says, “God Bumps.”
That outreach I helped to lead, it didn’t go so well. The kids complained about the heat, the work they had to do, why we couldn’t do more sightseeing. We were unprepared to handle teens with deep family issues and the need to be rebellious. They were more interested in shopping and dating each other than they were about sharing Jesus with people who didn’t have a place to lay their head at night. We sent one of the boys home after a few days.
H stayed back in Phoenix that week to help his mother care for his father in the early stages of cancer. It would be his dads last days of coherency, before morphine became his best friend.
Newly married, H and I were dealing with a plethora of unknowns, learning from the lessons of hardness without answers.
And maybe this is all we need to know when answers hide, details remain unobtrusive, understanding seems far away: I will never leave you or forsake you.
Perhaps the gift of seeds sown along the urban sidewalks in New York and beside sick beds in Phoenix is my daughter giving herself away in Jamaica. She’s the first of our family to step on Caribbean soil. And I think her feet will fit perfectly in the imprint of His footsteps waiting for her there.
She’s scattering seeds of her soul over the poor and I can’t wait to see the blooms. The handwriting is on the bubblegum wrapper so I know they’ll be lovely.
Have you ever found a forgotten promise in an obscure place? Or wondered about the fruit from what seemed like a barren season?
Linking with Walk with Him Wednesdays, Imperfect Prose, WLWW, Life in Bloom, Thought Provoking Thursday.
Shelly, the love of the Father you convey so beautifully here brings tears to my eyes. Yes, sister, yes, He reminds us, over and over, of His love, His faithfulness. And how He must have delighted in your discovery of the wrapper, the occasion orchestrated so perfectly, by Him! I adore this line: “And I think her feet will fit perfectly in the imprint of His footsteps waiting for her there.” Bless you and your beautiful daughters’ hearts! Love your passion for serving and leaning in, to where He takes you. I lived in NYC for just a year, and it is a place that stirs my heart. Love to you!
So thankful for the heart of my daughter. She convicts me and inspires me on a regular basis. How fun to live in NYC for a year. I still think about being there and the people we talked to those days on the streets. So much need out there among them.
Shelly, when those seeds blossom, be sure to collect them in a fragrant bouquet for your blog. God will be faithful to your daughter, and we all can’t wait to read about it. Oh thank you for this reminder. I just unearthed a very old Bible (dating to 1993), recalling when author and speaker, Anne Ortlund, at a conference, told us to write (next to Ps. 20) in our Bibles, something we would like to see change in the next 5 years (that’s like those desires you spoke of in your last post). I am completely staggered!!! Wow!!! I hadn’t even recalled writing all this! I prayed for salvation for my husband, daughter, father (in heaven now), and brother, and all were saved!! I prayed to become a Christian author and speaker. I am (and had absolutely no background for it). I prayed to conduct a particular journaling seminar called Spiritual CPR (and actually taught this–w/ this very same title–as a 6-week class several times last year….and I could never have known then that I would have gone on to get a credential in journal facilitation and learn how to write journaling curricula!) There are two changes too personal to share that have occurred, and one pending but in process. This just utterly overwhelms me with joy at God’s incredible faithfulness! I am sooo amazed. Thank you so much for asking us to do this, Shelly. You have made my day and given me hope for those promises as yet unfulfilled!!!!!
Thank you for sharing from your personal markers, they inspire me. I do find it builds faith to go back to the places where I have written the ways in which God spoke to me, and then to see how He answered prayers along the way. It does give hope for the future to look back and see how He has led all along.
“.,…how He has led all along”! Wow! That really *is* a faith-builder, isn’t it?!
Ah, beautiful, Shelly. I’ve been going through old books, trying to make room for the last of the boxes from my church office since my retirement. And as I glance through so many of them, I find old blessings, promises, reminders of God’s faithfulness over time. A lovely gift for you as you pray and wait for your daughter’s return.
I didn’t realize you retired Diana, congrats. How does it feel?
Oh, and it gives me goose bumps too Shelly! The handwriting on the bubblegum wrapper was God reminding you of his promise from years back. Don’t you love the way He speaks in such unusual ways? That you kept that wrapper means something too. It might mean that he’s reminding you of your own devotion to him. It works both ways you know.
And your daughter, she must be as dedicated as her mother. She is living the example you’ve set before her, looking out for the poor. Oh, there will be much fruit, I just know it.
What you said about the outreach you lead… how the kids complained? I’ve been there too, and how frustrating to offer something divine when they want superficial. It saddens me.
In answer to your question, yes, I did find a forgotten promise, but not in such an obscure place as yours. It was a magnet a dear friend gave me years ago. A picture of hummingbirds and flowers and the words, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It had been on the side my fridge forever, amongst a million other things, and one day it just jumped out at me.
Oh sweet Debra, what a joy to see you here. I do feel that the verse on the wrapper was for her and me and my husband. The same message relevant and needed in each of our unique circumstances. He does amaze me on a regular basis regarding how He speaks. And isn’t it funny how something like a magnet hanging in the same place can jump out with a message anew? Thanks for sharing that.
Your question made me a bit sad as my Bible from the last 15 years has gone missing. The verses I prayed and dated for certain people or events, the list of memorized scriptures in the front. I pray that if it isn’t hidden in the clutter of my house that is blessing some person who didn’t know the Word is so real. Can’t imagine the conflicting emotions of sending a daughter off on a mission trip. I am wrestling with just 4 nights of summer camp…..
Oh so sorry about the loss of your bible Laura. I can imagine that is hard. And honestly, I never had any conflicting emotions about her going to Jamaica. I’m filled with anticipation about what He is doing in and through her. Maybe I am naive but as my kids get older I have learned to let go a bit more with each year.
This is fantastic. God-Bumps here, too!
Aww, thanks Jennifer. I really did have them all over my arms when I picked up that paper. I knew He was standing right there beside me smiling.
I love when we are neighbors! I have many memories tucked away in my own Bible. Your daughter will have a amazing experience! Blessings!
I noticed we must have been on the same schedule this morning linking our posts. Love being your neighbor too!
Oh those sweet kisses on our cheeks from God…His timing is perfect and He redeems all…and thanks for you kind, sweet words to me…they humbled and blessed me greatly…thanks my friend:)
Yes, perfect timing and redemption Ro. I think that reality becomes firmly planted in the days of maturity. And I meant every word I said about you. So thankful for you.
Thanks Eileen, hope you found your blender lid. That made me laugh this morning but I didn’t have any witty comeback to reply on twitter.
I love it when I find forgotten treasures in my Bible. I laughed when I rea this “They were more interested in shopping and dating each other than they were about sharing Jesus” bc this is how the youth at my church are so often and I get so frustrated and want to give up! Blessings to you this week…
God uses it all somehow doesn’t he Mari. I mean, even their bad attitudes taught me a life lesson on leading . . .what not to do. Lovely to connect with you.
I need to pull out an old Bible — it’s like an old friend with many stories. Thanks for this reminder.
I realized that the bible I use often isn’t marked up like the old ones. It is like returning to an old friend with pockets loaded with promises. Thanks for stopping by Lyli.
smiles….lovely post…and a great reassurance as well….she will be fine…and she will learn as you have as well…what a treasure that bubble gum wrapper is…and lovely pics too!
Can’t wait to hear about what she learns, the good and the ugly. Thanks for the encouragement Brian. You’re a jewel.
I know that I’ve found these kinds of promises tucked away–even if not on paper. They are a joy to find. Thanks so much for sharing how this encouraged you and reminded you of difficult ministry days, Shelly. I can relate! And so glad that your daughter is stepping out to minister too. That’s got to be a true joy to watch!
It really is. I am so thankful for her compassionate, generous heart. We really don’t even suggest, or prod, its just who she is and I am grateful.
yes, yes……oh how you’ve stirred the YES inside of me
and I thank you for the bubblegum wrappers that are tumbling
out of the nooks and crannies in my heart right now!
there is something so inviting about this kind of faithfulness,
Father of mine:):):)
so glad for this sweet inspire, friend:)
Love that imagery of wrappers falling out of your heart in remembrance. What a gift that is! So nice to meet you Jennifer, I enjoyed looking around at your place today too.
Came here via Ann Voskamp. So glad I did. It’s so nice when we reap the harvest that we meant to sow. Hopefully I’ll have that opportunity one day. If I could just sow the right seeds….
That’s the glory of sowing seeds, He’s in charge of the outcome of harvest. We just have to be faithful to sow, water and weed . .He does the rest. So glad you stopped by from Ann’s place, nice to meet you.
Oh wow, I love Jamaica! I have been there 4 times now, I go to Montego Bay with a small group to help with their National Bible Quiz tournament. Get to visit a lot of different schools in and around town. It is a beautiful, amazing country with some very special people! I hope your daughter has a great time!
How wonderful that you have that connection to Jamaica. My daughter is doing some hard labor with concrete which is totally out of her comfort zone. Can’t wait to hear about it all when she returns.
oh, wow! Sounds intense! They do build a lot with concrete there. Well, it’s a stretching experience to be out of your comfort zone.. but that can be a good thing too! Hope that’s true for her. “no problem!” as they say there. 😉
Love when the Holy Spirit blows through and leaves behind a forgotten truth just when we need it. Praying for your daughter right now, Shelly…and sending hugs and kisses for you.
His timing is just right isn’t it Patricia. My how I am holding on to that right now. I feel your hugs and kisses, love you lots.
oh, i find these all the time! and i am reminded, ever again, of His amazing love for me. it is in those minute, obscure details, that i hear the whisper of my name. and oh, how lovely He says it.
thank you for this sharing,
Yes, the details. They are often lost in the hurry of life. I want to take notice, be alert to them. Thankful that He reminds me of so many things I have forgotten. That is getting worse with each passing year I am afraid. 🙂
What a beautiful moment where you sought Him instead of fear – and that is faith. I remember when my son went to Uganda – and we didn’t know. . . but we had faith. I love your bubble gum wrapper scripture – a love letter from the Father just when you needed it. I love how He does that! Your post left me wondering about all those other wrappers and scriptures – and how many of them still reach out God messages.
We took Murielle to Rwanda about five years ago, just near the border of Uganda. It was a wonderful trip, she wants to return some day.
Shelly, I am excited at how the seeds will bloom, as I know they would, because your daughter’s ministry is pleasing the Father tremendously. I pray that HE will prosper her works as well as her fellow youth workers.
Those are opportunities I longed for the early moments of my conversion. I witnessed the glorious joy the youths experiences when at the field souls were won. Nothing could ever describe those kinds of joy. They come from heaven. And I could almost hear the harps and the trumpets of God’s heavenly hosts, as they celebrate a single soul won for Christ. Alleluia.
I would have liked to be a Christian at a tender age…… but that is how God works, He is the master. Anyway, I enjoyed going to camps with them….. it gave me windows to peer into youthful hearts.
I send prayers up the heavens for the work ahead for your daughter’s group. We will doubly pray for there will be oppositions. We will claim the cloak of protection over them and wherever they go, a host of God’s angels will surround them, and sing choruses up the heavens for their willing hearts in taking the gospel of Christ to soils abroad.
Lovely also to remember how you and your friend used to intercede for one another and pray intensely over your needs early on in your ministry…… yes for the little notes inserted in the old Bibles. Sometimes they just drop off unbidden but we know deep inside they are God moments.
Thank you very much for your earnest prayers for my daughter, I appreciate them and look forward to telling you about her trip afterward.
I have been a YWAM fan for many years. My husband and I almost joined about 20 years ago, but it just wasn’t going to work out well. At the orphanage in Uganda and other places both national and international YWAM-ers were very involved. I know you have so many other topics you shared, and I thoroughly enjoyed them and your observations/understandings/challenges, but my biggest heart-jump was obviously that ministry connection. [Some of my Ugandan YWAM friends went to Rwanda to encourage and bless those who had struggled. Sure would have loved to go with them, even though I’d have spent a lot of time crying.] See? You share so many different elements so often you keep my brain traveling around the world and loving your photos and your stories.
Our time with YWAM was both transformational and foundational for the ministry we do now. We still use so many of the principles we learned during those years. I was just telling a friend about that over lunch this week. We went to Rwanda with our kids about five years ago (not with YWAM) and then my husband and I have been several times since. It has been a joy to watch the transformation of a country after the ravages of genocide. I think we could talk a long time about places and travel Joanne. 🙂
First time reading your blog! Loved every word. My husband and I are beginning a home church movement in NC and he is working bivocationally after 15 years in vocational ministry. We are in that obscure land you speak of, but I used to call this place home. Thank you for your beautiful words.
Lori, so glad you are following along, thanks so much for leaving a comment to let me know you were here. I am wondering how you found me? Would love to hear more about your home church movement in NC. We lived there for five years.
Hooray for the Lord and all the ways in which He reveals Himself over and over! When hard times come, I try to remember David and his words before he confronted Goliath: God has delivered me from the lion and the bear, and he will deliver me from this giant (paraphrasing). It’s so easy to think about the Lord in terms of our current circumstances, and–when we’re in trouble–it’s so difficult to force ourselves to remember how He’s shown up for us, time and time again. May God continue to bless and keep.
Yes, rejoicing with you in the knowledge of His enduring faithfulness, especially when I forget and have to be reminded! Thanks for stopping by Brandee.
I love the fact that HE knows just what we need, when we need it…bubble gum wrapper reminders…I think that may be something only HE could use. 🙂 Lovely post, Shelly. I’ll be praying for your daughter.
That knowledge is comforting isn’t it Mary? Thanks for your prayers, I really appreciate them.
God can speak to us through such simple and humble means that are easy to overlook if we are not paying attention. I love how this wrapper popped back up into your life!
When my Gram died in 2009, I asked if I could have the Bible my mom had given to her. Every so often as I am reading, I will come across Gram’s notes and marks. I run my fingers over the penciled notations, seeing her studying the verses, and smiling at the love, grace and forgiveness she found there that I find such a comfort as well.
Oh, I love the thought of you sitting with her bible and all the meaning it held for her right on your lap. And that gum wrapper recollection, it was a Holy Spirit inspired God thing for sure!
What a wonderful legacy to be continuing in your family! Just as you served others, now your daughter is off doing the same. As always, you tell a story so beautifully!
So glad she has her own desire to serve Mary Beth. We don’t even suggest, she just wants to and I don’t take that for granted. Thanks for your kind words.
What a sweet memory, Shelly. I’m cleaning out my office this week and I’m finding all sorts of random notes and prompts. I love that God orchestrates those wrappers to get our attention at just the right time!
You reminded me of our last move. I went through boxes we moved seven times and finally threw away lots of notes from high school and college but it was so fun reading them all and remembering things I forgot about. His promises never grow out of date.
Oh, the God Bumps here, friend. You have sown in to the lives of other young people, and now other people are watching over your children…and it seems that her soil is much more fertile than some of the hearts you broke ground on.
In the middle of the interview process for my new position, I remember a prophecy that my pastor’s wife scrawled on a piece of notebook paper. It sits on my desk now. It reads..”You are called to the ministry. You will be fulltime in the ministry…I have prepared you for this since you were born. The Salvation Army was boot camp. The seed your parents sowed in you will not return void. Continue to prepare yourself so you are ready when I call.” I continue to be encouraged by these words the way you are encouraged by the scripture on a bubble gum wrapper.
We need those words to hold onto when every circumstance around us says the opposite or nothing at all. So thankful for the times others have spoken into my life and thankful for those who have done the same for you too.
I am so excited for your daughter. I know she will be blessed by the experience. How long will she be there?
I can’t think of anything found in an obscure place. There is a long wooden sign in our living room given to us by a youth group in Washington. It is decorated with the words from Jeremiah 29:11. I have looked at that sign many times and clung to the promise. Right now, it might be said that I am in a dry and barren land. I prefer to look at as a freshly tilled garden plot, though. I’m just waiting to see what springs forth!
I’m excited for her too. I haven’t heard much but just praying and trusting. She will be there for ten days. Praying for a note of His presence to fall on your barreness as a reminder of His provision for you Tereasa. Those seasons are hard, if you need prayer for anything specific, I will be happy to stand with you friend. And we’ll watch those new shoots come through the ground together!
Sweet story of finding God in unexpected places. I’m glad you and your daughter were blessed this way. God is good.
Thank you. He uses everything doesn’t he? Not a single second wasted in this life.
God bumps, here…Hebrews 13:5 is one of my favorite verses and one that I have clung to many many times…blessings to your daughter as she serves, and as you pray for her 🙂 Great story of God’s faithfulness.
Wonderful to know that is one of the verses that you hold onto as a promise Dolly. Love the way God speaks to us, reassures when doubt and discouragement try to take over.
“The fruit of what seemed like a barren season” – yes, I get this. I appreciate your honesty about the outreach trip that didn’t go so well. Sometimes those things flop. They just do. It helps to know that we all go through seasons like that. . . and yet, God is always there. What a treasure of a verse on the bubble gum wrapper. Hope you are doing well, my friend.
I love, love, love those kind of moments, when God surprises us with a truth from the past that is just as applicable in our present and definitely needed for our future. Thanks for sharing this story, Shelly.
Me too. They are like finding unexpected treasure on a leisurely walk. I didn’t do anything to deserve them, they were just there.