“I Gave You Three”

I can still recall the joy I had when my husband and I accepted our first full time ministry position.  Even as a child, I knew my calling was that of a pastor.  It was a knowing that just grew with age.  And that still small voice kept calling me to prepare for what He would one day make a reality.

Then it came.  That first night to stand in front of the youth of our church was such an honor.  I had dreamed of this moment.  The altar times; praying with the girls.  The late night chats and shopping events.  The small group setting where one-on-one ministry could altar the course of a life.  Yet within weeks, events went out of the picture perfect lines of ministry.  You know, that picture you can create in your own mind of what something will look like.  It was ingrained in me.  That ‘how my ministry would unfold’ picture.  Instead I found myself rarely even in services with our youth.  The reason: there was no nursery available for my little ones.

About the same time we transitioned into youth ministry, our church transitioned into small groups instead of mid-week service.  Parents were in cell groups while the youth still met at the church in our youth building.  That left only my little ones in need of nursery.  Nursery room was even in a separate building.  So while other ladies were bonding during small groups, I was in a large building alone, marching around in circles with three little ones marching behind me singing, “following the leader”.  And that one-on-one ministry time during our youth’s Friday night small group?  Same thing.  The youth sat in the living room listening to my husband teach.  I was in the den watching Balto save an entire town or Andy pull Barney out of another sticky situation.

My mind went tilt.  And it was time to have my own one-on-one with my Father.  This was not what ‘He and I’ had planned for my life.  And I knew He would listened.

I vented.  “This was not what I had in mind.  This isn’t fair.  My husband wasn’t called into ministry until he was in college.  I’ve know my whole life!!  I am supposed to be influencing world changers from today’s youth……not watching Bambi!  Why would You allow me to walk through the door only to face a wall?”  I vented until I had nothing left to say.  He listened.  Then came that still small voice.

“I gave you three.  Duplicate yourself in those three.”

And my world stilled.  Cracked.  Then came back off from ’tilt’.

As I sit here typing this, those words are still clear and tears fill my eyes.  See, mentoring sometimes looks different according to our seasons in life.  Duplication is still the end game.  Everything I did with my kids became an intentional time to mentor.  If we were planting seeds in the back yard, I taught about the process of seeds dying in the dirt in order to grow into a plant.  Just like Jesus died and rose again.  When we rescued a stray dog and took it in for care, or tried to save a hurt bird, or caught the lizard at the local nursery……only to have it get loose in my car while driving home……they all were times to teach them a character of Christ.  Sometimes I blew it in mentoring of my three.  But God’s grace always covered the empty space where I had missed the mark.  And my Father taught ME how to be creative in mentoring youth as well.  Girls joined me in grocery shopping or various outings with my kids.  Those are times I taught the life lesson of being a godly role model.  Or we baked together.  Or had coffee.  No matter how creative it became, it was all still the intentional art of duplication.

In the last few years I have been able to minister in Peru, Guatemala, Alaska, Tanzania, Morocco, Spain, Zambia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia,… and I have a kids’ home in Haiti.  Yet I’ve never visited another country except Mexico and Canada.  So how could I have ministered in other places?  Just one answer……….



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Life of Zippy!

“Moses is on the mountain again.”

Those words started becoming a common phrase as I entered the church looking for my husband on any given day.  It was said in a tongue-and-cheek manner, yet to me it had become reality.  My husband was being drawn away by the Spirit into a time of prayer. At all times.  Day or night.  At home or at the church.  His life was being transformed.  And so was mine.

Family time was priority to us as parents.  We had breakfast and devotion every morning.  Supper and family prayer was practically every night depending on activities.  Having weekends usually busy with activities, Monday nights were our family nights.  We had established routines.  Then it happened.  Dad started being called ‘up the mountain.’  If we were home together, we knew when he was going into prayer once we heard both the living and dining room doors closing, shutting off that part of the house.  Or if he had called saying he was on his way home yet ended up walking in the door much later, he probably had passed the prayer room and felt drawn to go pray.  Yes, these times of prayer were taking him spiritually to a new level.  Any time someone would ask where they could find Pastor Ralph, the typical answer was, “He’s praying.”  Thus came the ‘Zippy’ time of my life.  Because as ‘Moses’ was praying, his wife was with three kids and a dog.

See, few people stop to realize the simple fact that Moses had a wife.  And two sons.  Imagine being left with two young boys for 40 days, among a million people you don’t know……and in the middle of a desert.  After hearing the ‘Moses’ comment enough times and watching the awe some had in their eyes for this godly man and his devotion, I wanted to get on the rooftop and let everyone know, “MOSES HAD A WIFE!”  Instead, I decided it was time for me to find more details about that wife.  Honestly now!  How did she do it?  How did she live with this man who had experienced the glory of God up on that mountain?

We only have a handful of scriptures that mention Zipporah, and none of them are during the time when Moses was on the mountain. Or when he sat judging a million people.  No details of her life during the 40 years of wandering.  Yet the little information I read spoke volumes to me of this woman who found herself in the midst of God’s plan for an entire nation.

Born into the home of a priest, she understood the cost of leadership.  As a Midianite, there is much doubt as to which god her family worshipped.  However, as a descendant of Abraham through Keturah, and seeing how her father later gave praise to God for His protection over the Israelites, there is strong possibility they were of a sect that actually worshipped the God of Abraham.  Whether that is true or not, through her actions towards Moses we can see that she understood someone following their call.  She was willing to follow him even though she had not heard from God herself.

Can you relate?  I can.  The call.  The reality of being one with someone else who is answering their call…..even when you don’t fully understand why.  It sometimes requires you to live out life with your own unfulfilled dreams.  A life of self sacrifice for the sake of another person living in obedience.  A life often spent knelt by an altar.  The altar brings peace in acceptance.  For the sake of the souls that are yet to come to Christ.  Sometimes it’s lonely.  Sometimes it’s indescribable joy!  But always it takes leaning on the secret strength found in His center.

This modern day ‘Zippy’ is encouraged knowing others have walked this road before.


We all need it.  That time alone without interruptions.  Yet so often we have too many things fighting for our time and attention.  And when the unexpected shows up at our door, we realize how much we depend on those times of solitude.  We’ve all been there.  You know –  those days when everything came crashing down at once.  The days when you just wanted to run and scream and let everyone know that you really do not have that super hero cape hiding in the closet.

I still remember December of 1991.  I had just scheduled a doctor’s appointment for my very sick one-year old daughter when the phone rings.  My mom’s voice breaks through to inform me that my Mam-maw had just had an aneurism and was taken to the ER.  She might not make it.  At the doctor’s office, I learn that my daughter is very sick with the croup and is borderline of needing to be taken to the hospital.  That’s impossible!  I have a four hour drive to take to see my Mam-maw! I had not even had the chance to tell her I was once again expecting!  That was to be part of her Christmas present.

No drive home that night.  Instead, a recheck was scheduled for first thing the next morning with our pediatrician.  My husband and I were taking turns being up nursing and praying for our daughter.  In between my turns I was making a beeline to the bathroom.  Morning sickness had decided to visit early.  As our daughter is crying and I am losing what little I had in my stomach, my husband hears a great song come on the radio, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year……..”  I don’t thing Andy had gotten the memo that our house was not experiencing such a wonderful time!

Or what about the time you find out your husband’s job was just given to someone else without him knowing and now your family is without a job or insurance, and baby number three is on his way?  And you need four brand new tires for your car.

We all can list those times.  The news of a lay off.  Learning your 13 year old was just hit in the head by a brick and has a concussion while in Guatemala.  Watching a parent slowly drift away to eternity.  Hearing a spouse on the other end of the line barely able to breathe and you can’t seem to get to them fast enough.  Watching your child’s world fall apart and there is nothing you can do to fix it.

These are the times you learn where your inner strength really lies.  As one of the animated shows asked, what is your center when the things around you seem to be overcoming your very being?  For me, it is the quietness with my Father.  I depend on it.  My responses to the unexpected reflect it.  Being my mom’s caregiver was an honor.  But how could I have so much peace in the midst of watching her earthly body drift away?  It’s my center.

My center is my very being.  That being that knows that no matter what comes my way, my Father holds me.  Sometimes I lose sight of that center.  Sometimes I rush to judgement on others who hurt me.  Sometimes I scream into space that I am at the end of my rope and can not take another thing thrown my way.  But every time that life gets to that place, I find my center again when I quietly walk back into HIS center of peace.

He holds me.  He is my center.  Abba Father.  Creator.  God Almighty.  My Eternal Lover. And no matter what comes my way or how I respond, He still puts His arms around me in comfort and love.  He created me so He knows me like no one else.

He is my secret strength in this life.  Is He yours?  If not, I challenge you, find HIS center for your life.