The Time I Almost Killed Clay

Have I ever told you about the time I almost killed Clay? No? Ok, well I think this is a story worth sharing.

For our honeymoon, Clay surprised me with a 5-day cruise through the Bahamas. One of those days, I mustered up Clay's sense of adventure, and instead of booking a "shore excursion" through the cruise company, we decided to get off the ship and ask a local taxi to take us to a good beach for snorkling, that wouldn't be crowded with tourists. 

That is a story in and of itself, but somehow 30 minutes after we got off the ship, we were sitting in the back of a beat-up limousine with no seatbelts, hurtling down the back roads of the island of Grand Bahama. For 20 minutes, we wound in and out of neighborhoods, sketchy shopping areas, and even sketchier industrial areas. I had a few moments thinking, "Is this taxi driver taking us to a beach, or is this the start of a Dateline investigation?" Finally, though, we arrived at a beach. And GOOD LORD was it beautiful. Like, jaw-dropping. Dateline 0, but Selway Honeymoon 1!

clay1.jpg

She dropped us off, we paid for our snorkling equipment, got the standard "don't touch the coral" lecture, and donned our flippers. Just before stepping away from the beach, the attendant asked "Do you want snorkling instruction? Or, for $10 more, I can use a jet ski to ferry you out to the reef. It's a pretty far swim."

I eyed the distance from shore to the rocky outcropping where the reef started, and estimated it at about 100 yards. Easy. "No thanks," I said. "We've been snorkling, and we can both just swim."

See that little strip of grey in the distance? THAT is the rocky outcropping, and just behind that was the reef. 

See that little strip of grey in the distance? THAT is the rocky outcropping, and just behind that was the reef. 

So off we went, trotting down the beach and into the water. I set off, Clay behind me, taking what I thought was a fairly leisurely pace. I was enthralled. I absolutely love snorkling, and couldn't wait to get out further, where I knew the good reef would really start. I gave a cursory glance behind my shoulder, and saw Clay a good distance behind me. I waited for him duck his head up, and yelled "Hurry up, let's go!!" He nodded, and started kicking again, so I turned around to keep swimming. 

This happened a few times, so after awhile I got frustrated, thinking he was just being a slow poke, and quit checking to see if he was behind me. Some time later, we arrived at the first "buoy," which as essentially a giant rubber ball with ropes to hold onto. They were designed to give you a rest before swimming on (necessary in this case, because to snorkle the reef meant a 100-yard swim out into the ocean, where you were then effectively blocked from going back to shore by sharp rocky outcroppings and the strong current. To swim out meant to choose to swim for about an hour, straight.)

As I pulled myself up to the buoy, I looked back and noticed my husband, over 20 yards away, sputtering and struggling towards the buoy. He was struggling. I swam off the buoy, trying to remember what I knew about rescuing a drowning person. Before I came to a decision, he was in arms reach, and I pulled him towards the buoy. When he finally grabbed on, he was completely out of breath, and I was grateful we'd chosen not to turn down the life vests - I was starting to think I might be dragging him back to shore!

"Are you alright?!" I asked.
"Yes." He wheezed, "I.....just.....am not....a.....very good......swimmer." 
"WHAT!?" I screamed. "I didn't know that! I thought you knew how to swim! I wouldn't have suggested this if I didn't think you were a strong swimmer!"
"NO!" he gasped. "And....I don't....really know....how to snorkle."

That statement earned a blank face. We had literally just been snorkling with dolphins yesterday. When I pointed that out to him, he pointed out that we had been in shallow water, and he had gotten out about 2 minutes after we'd gotten in. 

Oh.

Somehow, we made it around the rest of the reef and back to shore, but Clay was pretty beat, and I was pretty nervous. But, we did see some pretty awesome ocean life, and I think we both had a pretty great time snorkling! (Minus the sporadic sputtering from Clay when the waves swamped his snorkle.)

And that, friends, is an example of how you can discover the things you never knew about the person you married. By assuming and then almost killing them. 

Just kidding.

But in honor of that story, here are 5 things I've learned about Clay since we got married!

  1. He hates peas.
  2. He doesn't like corn off the cobb. It's a texture thing?
  3. He puts ketchup on his sandwiches. (Gross.)
  4. He makes really awesome pancakes.
  5. He can fall asleep alarmingly fast. 

Thanks for not dying on our honeymoon. And thanks for not getting mad at me for almost killing you, dear. 



October Prayer Letter

“So I have a moral dilemma that I need to run by you, and I think you’re the most moral person I know.”

The first part of this phrase is not unusual to hear on a college campus, on this occasion the campus of Hocking Technical College in Nelsonville, Ohio.  Emily and I were down in the area to meet with churches to talk about partnering with us in our ministry, so we decided to meet and catch up with Chris, a student in the ministry with whom I had the privilege of working with last year.   I could not wait to catch up with Chris and hear about how the Lord had been working in his life.  

Hocking Technical college.

Hocking Technical college.

We sat down at a picnic table outside the dining hall and had only been there for a minute or so when “Garrett” suddenly plopped down beside all of us and blurted out that sentence to Chris.  He began to tell a long story of how he had befriended a girl with whom he had classes.  She needed a place to stay between those classes, so he offered her his extra room key so she could have a place to nap.  One thing led to another and they began to sleep together.  Garrett’s moral dilemma had to do with the fact that this girl had a boyfriend already, so he was not sure how to handle the situation.  He also had no idea if what he was doing with her was okay or not.  Chris listened carefully, his eyes never leaving Garrett as his story unfolded.  

Clay (far right) with Chris (center) and Brandon, at a Cru event last year.

Clay (far right) with Chris (center) and Brandon, at a Cru event last year.

Emily and I sat quietly as well, listening.  My mind began to race as the story went on.  “Garrett is not unlike a lot of young college kids”, I thought.  “He is trying to figure out how to make it on his own, find happiness, and have some purpose.  Yet he does not even have a basic moral compass.  He doesn’t have anyone or anything to tell him what is right or wrong.”  

I was also encouraged as I watched Chris engage with Garrett.  He began to gently explain to Garrett why what he was doing was wrong.  About this time last year, Chris had only just surrendered his life to Christ and began a relationship with him.  It was incredible to watch him gently talk with Garrett and tell him why what he had been doing was not okay.  I was incredibly impressed by his continued growth and maturity.  Most importantly, Garrett had sought out Chris for his thoughts, calling him “the most moral person I know.”  The fact that Garrett had reached out to him signaled to me that non-Christians know there is something different about Chris.  Because his life has truly been transformed, he has already had opportunities to be a witness of Christ to others and will continue to have more.  

Honestly, it was hard to see Garrett go through this and have no truth to lean on when life is hard.  At a time when we are usually away from campus, our conversation with Garrett was a great reminder of why Emily and I have chosen to be full-time missionaries and work on college campuses.  “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:36

Prayer Requests

1. Praise God for all that He did at OU’s Fall Retreat (thanks for praying!) Several hundred students came, friendships were formed, and lives were changed.

2.  For Chris’s friend, “Garrett.” Pray that God would work in his heart and his mind, and that his problems would convince him of his need for Jesus.

3. For all lost college students, “harassed and helpless”,  that God would give us ample opportunity to introduce them to their shepherd.

4.  Again, for us, as we continue to work on finishing our required seminary course and developing our Ministry Partner team so that we can return to campus. We are praying to return in January, in time for spring semester. 

5. For a friend, with whom Emily is attempting to share the Gospel. 

Crazy, Stupid Hope

Have you ever seen the movie, "Crazy, Stupid Love?" If not, don't rush out to rent it. (No, seriously don't.) I've had the unfortunate experience of watching this movie, and while I really didn't enjoy it (nor could I recommend it for many, many reasons) I was struck by the main theme of the movie -that love, while both crazy, and stupid, is something so good it's worth fighting for. It's worth doing big, over-the-top, insane gestures to show someone how much you care. To shout to the world, "I love this person, and I'm never going to stop!"

That's how I think every Christian should feel about hope. 

For a very long time in my Christian life, I was afraid to "pray big." Sure, I heard lots of sermons about, and if you'd asked me I would have surely replied, "Sure, we have a big God, why shouldn't our prayers be big?"

But I never did it. 

Some of it was laziness, and a faire amount of immaturity, too. But I think the biggest reason was fear. I was scared! What if I prayed big, and God didn't come through? I'd have to face disappointment (and we all know how much American culture hates disappointment. Thanks, childhood "participation trophies.") 

If I told others about my big prayer, then I'd have to face embarrassment. I'd have to look people in the eye who knew that my prayer wasn't answered, and surely they'd think I was now a big loser instead of a big pray-er

Maybe worst, I'd have to face God. And not the loving, squishy, huggable, cotton-candy-sugar-coated God that America has so enthusiastically endorsed. The God who says "not yet." The God who says "no." The God who is not my personal vending machine, and has plans that far outstrip and outweigh anything I could dream up to ask Him. 

That's the part I couldn't face. So for years, and years, and years I didn't. 

Then, last year, I interned with Cru, and suddenly I had thousands of dollars of monthly support to raise in just 3 months, and I found myself saddled with a big prayer that I was being forced to pray. 

And I'm sad to admit, that I often didn't pray. And when I did, I prayed with weak, anxious, doubting faith. Faith so thin and so tentative, it was hardly a wisp. But God honored that faith, and on the day of my deadline I found myself inexplicably at 100% of my goal, having raised about 60% in the very last 10 days. 

Whoa.

I wish I could say that that experience once-and-for-all cured my wimpy, scared faith and that from that day forward I only ever prayed big, confident prayers. 

Hah. 

But God is so sweet and kind in the ways that He orchestrates our lives to teach us what we need to learn!

And that's how i found myself, several months ago, almost exactly a year after God fulfilled my first "big prayer", offering up a tearful prayer in the car with my husband. 

We were returning home from a weekend of support appointments, and the burning that had been in my gut all weekend finally spilled out of my mouth. "ClayIThinkWeNeedToChangeOurFaithGoalToPrayToFinishOurSupportByJanuary1st." I swear, it all came out in one breath like that. 

To my surprise (chagrin? dismay? despair?) he did't protest, but agreed. Crap. I didn't want to pray to change our date to be done in 5 months instead of 9. But somehow, I was. Big, fat, reluctant tears rolled down my face as we prayed. 

Behind us, a wall of dark, angry clouds chased our car, hurling the occasional bolt of lightening or crack of thunder at the passing interstate. I felt as if the clouds reflected my the storm of my anxious heart, and only my furious prayers would propel me forward fast enough to avoid them overwhelming me. 

I still feel like that.

Every day, I wake up, put my feet on the floor, and say some serious prayers to propel me beyond the angry storms of my doubt and fear. I don't always stay ahead, but I'm never inside them for long.

And that, I think, is hope. Christian hope. The confident hope that comes from knowing that our prayers are heard by a God who cares so intimately about us that he not only formed us in the womb by His hand, but sent his own son to pay for our purposeful rebellion!

That our prayers are heard by a God who has made a million promises, and never once not fulfilled a single one. 

That our big, giant, enormous prayers are heard and answered by an even bigger, more giant, more enormous God, and that everything we ask, He is more than able to answer. 

That's why I'm not afraid to pray that we'll be at 100% of our support by January 1st, as impossible as it seems. Because He's a big God, and my prayer is really not that big in comparison to that. I'm willing to risk disappointment, embarrassment, and even facing a God who says "no." Because I know that God really never says just "no," but always says "No, but better." And I can confidently and expectantly hope in that. 

Crazy. Stupid. Hope. 

-Emily

 

The Strongest Call

Many of you know that I used to maintain a personal blog called "That I Might Have Life". To keep my life simple, I decided it might just be easier for me to continue my sporadic blogging on the website that Clay and I keep for our ministry. 

One of the things we get asked a lot as we work on raising our financial support is "How long will you be doing this?" And by this, they mean working full-time to find people who will partner with us to provide the financial and prayer support we need to report to our assignment at Ohio University. 

We usually respond with our faith-goal of being at 100% by January first, and our prayerful hopes for all that entails, and then move on to whatever else still needs to be discussed. It really is that simple, on the surface - we trust a big God who can do big things. Even provide 100% of our needed financial support in just 6 months!

But I, the overthinker, always find a way to be a pessimist. On the bad days, when nothing happens and we're feeling "stuck" and my heart just feels so tired, the lies creep in, and I hear the whispers. "Can you really do this? How long can you keep this up? Do you have the stamina, the faith for this kind of work?" 

For the past few weeks, these lies have been a constant refrain for me. Like a catchy pop-song, but with a lot more bitterness and a terrible effect on my attitude. In the midst of this, about a week ago, we left for a 4 day conference with others who were a part of our New Staff Training "class." 

While we were there, taking a much-needed break from the months of hard work, I got to spend several hours just sitting with the Lord. As I sat there, spilling my soul, months of things I neglected to say rising to the surface and spilling over, I heard the lies again. 

 "Can you really do this? How long can you keep this up? Do you have the stamina, the faith for this kind of work?" 

But this time, I finally answered the lies. 

YES! I realized something over those 4 days that I've probably needed to realize for months. I've never been more called to something in my life than I have to be a career-missionary with Cru. 

God placed this call on my heart. On my husband's heart. He confirmed it through the counsel of friends, the trial of experience, and the confidence that is surfaced only through lots of prayer. We are called to this.

And as long as we are called to this, we will never, ever, ever give up. We will work full-time to raise support for the rest of our lives, if that's what it meant to get us to our assignment. We're praying for 6 months, but if it took us 60 years, I'd still do it. 

I really would. 

Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and being certain of what we do not see.
-Hebrews 11:1

September Prayer Letter

Life Lessons

Just over four months ago, we got married and embarked on the crazy adventure that has been joining staff with Cru. While it’s definitely been a time filled with so much good and tons of blessings, it’s also been really difficult in ways. Getting married, spending five weeks in a dorm room at New Staff Training, moving, and starting in a new ministry is a lot to take in in four months! We both decided to take some time to reflect on what we’ve been struggling with, and what the Lord has been teaching us in this season so that we could share it with you. 

Emily

As I reflect on the past four months of marriage, a clear theme that emerges amongst the chaos is “control.” (I’ve always been a bit of a control-freak, to be honest.) The circumstances of life that followed our wedding have included lots of change, and plenty of ambiguity. Personally, I found both of these things very, very difficult. My sinful response when I feel these stressors is to plan more, do more, control MORE. Unfortunately for Clay, that often looks like plan (Clay) more, (make Clay) do more, control (Clay) MORE.  

New Staff Training, moving, and beginning our ministry caused more than a few fights, and put a strain on our new marriage. In one particular outburst, I exclaimed in frustration, “I don’t want to rule the world. I just want to rule my world!” Whoa. The heart can be pretty ugly when it’s revealed in moments like that.

 After some very honest conversations, and some focused time in prayer, I realized something: My husband is my teammate, not my tool. And our ministry together is God’s tool, not my identity. These two very important distinctions are helping me to learn how to relax and let go of the control I often feel compelled to have. 

Right now, there is so much of our life that is out of our hands, especially concerning when and how we will finish our Ministry Partner team and be able to report to our campus assignment. But I am trying to learn this lesson, and every day attempting to choose to be ok with not being in control! 

Clay

It is remarkable how much being married changes things.  While these are almost exclusively in good ways and I love being married, I initially had a lot of trouble adjusting to this idea of how everything that I did affects her.  If I want to eat out, it messes with her dinner she wants to make.  If I do not read my Bible or my quiet time in prayer, I am more likely to lash out at her.  When I focus on ministry all day, I frequently just want to collapse on the couch, read, watch Netflix, and forget about everything else.  I love nothing more than an episode of Law and Order while eating a bowl of Chipotle.  This is physically bad for me, spiritually and emotionally hard for my wife, and she needs more than that.  

The biggest adjustment I have had to make is seeing my marriage as my primary ministry.  Even though my job title says missionary, I will always be a husband and need to minister to my wife.  When our marriage suffers, our ministry together (and separately) suffers.  These first few months of marriage have become really sweet as I continually recognize my need for Jesus and rely on him more day by day than I believe I ever have before.  By fixing my eyes on Christ, I can then go out and serve others, first and foremost Emily.

What We're Into Now (Get to know "Clemily" a little!)

Food: Homemade BBQ chicken pizza 
Music: “Anomaly” by Lecrae
Book: “The God Ask” by Steve Shadrach
Blog: charliessong.com (OK, this is Emily’s recommendation. But it’s really good.) 
Resource: net.bible.org (Free online in-depth Bible study resource.)

Prayer Requests - October

1. For OU’s upcoming Fall Retreat - October 3rd-5th

    -That many students would go.

    -That unbelievers who attend would come to Christ.

    -That believers would have their hearts changed to desire to reach out to their fellow students.

    -That lifelong friendships would be formed over these 3 days, and lives would be changed. 

     -For the practicalities: Enough food, enough rides, and good weather.

2.  For us, as we continue to work on finishing our required seminary course and developing our Ministry Partner team so that we can return to campus. We are praying to return in January, in time for spring semester. 

3. Emily has been feeling unwell, and has been at the doctor’s often. Pray that she can use the opportunity to develop relationships and share Christ's love.