God is writing my story- part 3

by sandi youngren

missionary to ecuador

read part 1 of sandi’s story

read part 2 of sandi’s story

Since those long ago days in New Mexico, we have moved around (I would rather stay in one place all my life), became a worship leading duo (I would prefer to sit in the back of the church, and would never have pictured myself on stage), and had four children (I thought I only wanted one). We eventually bought another house in my beloved home town in Washington. Although the “ministry years” there held some unbelievably difficult situations, I was thrilled to be a full-time homemaker once more. The kids walked to school just a block away, I baked cookies, made my own bread, had a garden, canned for winter, hosted tea parties, and was part of a wonderful outreach group where my artistic side came alive. We were on staff at a large church, so I could breathe again. I didn’t feel that I was on display for open judgement and expectations. I found that cozy sweater again and it was so comforting and warm and familiar. Then the other shoe dropped. 

Stud Muffin was invited to investigate a position in Southern California. A lead Pastor position. My heart sank. I reluctantly went with him for the interview. S CA was pretty enough, the people seemed nice enough, and my husband was excited enough for both of us. He was ready to be the lead guy, the vision caster, the one to fulfill the envisioned calling. I remember being in that church one day, all alone for some reason. I was filled with fear, and even anger. I was once again arguing with God. Didn’t He see that I was NOT the person for this? Why didn’t my husband marry one of those girls like I had met along the way, that told me that all they ever wanted was to be a Pastor’s wife? (I was seriously shocked and horrified to think that any living human being would ever desire that life! It was like they were saying “All I ever wanted was to be shark fodder” and SMILING while they said it!). Why would he take us from family, friends, my beloved home state, my comfortable “coming-home party” sweater that I was finally able to slip into once more? 

God: “I am with you.” 

Me: “But…..”

God: “I am with you.”

Me: (After much resistance and arguing) “Yes, Lord.”

I went forward in a renewed trust that God was writing my story and that He was the Hero, not me. 

After several years there (and a whole lot of leaning into God’s grace) we went on our first missions excursions to visit Missionaries that our church supported. I immediately saw a fire alight in Stud Muffin that I hadn’t seen for many years. He came alive when hungry hearts gathered to hear God’s word. It was such a stark contrast from what we were used to in “the States.” Foreign countries were so appreciative for any gospel crumb that would fall their way from the feasting table. Then, I asked once again what was wrong when the hubs was unusually quiet one day. His answer made me swallow my heart. I wasn’t the naive 18-year-old this time. I was almost 40. The kids were nearly adults and I was looking forward to what the next stage of life would bring: weddings and eventual grandchildren- and of course I would be right there in the middle of it all!

“I can’t get away from this nagging feeling that we are supposed to move to another country. They have little materially, but they have so little spiritually as well. Do we want to stay where there is a church on nearly every corner, or do we want to be where (as a missionary had taken us to the top of a high peak and pointed around saying) ‘there is not a single church as far as your eyes can see.’ Should we stay here where there are thousands and thousands that share God’s word, or should we spend what remains of our life where most aren’t willing to go?” 

This began my Monumental Battle with God. It lasted for months. How could He ask this of me? Didn’t I already give enough? Hadn’t I done my part? Why couldn’t I just be “a normal person” in the church? My husband have “a normal job?” Then my familiar list came out. Then His familiar answer came forth.

God: “I am with you.” 

Me: “But…..”

God: “I am with you.”

And finally…

Me: “Yes, Lord.”

Let me clarify that this inner wrestling went on for months because my faithful “servant-leader” husband would never push me into a life change that I didn’t agree with. He believes that a true test of God’s will is our unity in it. We could have stayed put. But deep inside I knew I was wrong and he was right, I just didn’t want to bend my knee to the God who was writing my story.

The compact version is that we resigned from the church, our oldest kids moved on, we went through some stormy and painful hardships, sold everything we owned, and two years later we were living in Mexico with our youngest 12-year-old daughter. 

Again, month after month and year after year I had to confront my selfish heart and submit to what God knew was the best thing for my own growth and maturity. And with that comes much joy. This stubborn introvert opened her home to college students and lived in community for years. I reveled in the one-on-one discipleship that community- living provided. There’s nothing that beats the independent individualism out of North Americans like living in real community- in one house where there’s no escape and everyone knows your everything. The God of paradox: a comfy sweater-clinging introvert finding real joy while living with several others in one house- in a foreign country.

Life goes on….just when I got used to Mexico, we moved to Ecuador. We have been here for 16 years now. It’s also been a bumpy road for me, but filled with pockets of joy. We are growing older and looking forward to shifting our home base to Chicago, where all four of our kids and all seven of our grandkids now reside (after 20 long years, my original thought of “being there in the middle of it all” just might happen). We’ll continue “ministry” by serving in both countries.

Instead of dreaming for that cozy sweater that wraps me in “coming home” comfort, I now live with a sharpened awareness of God’s ways. He is still writing my story, and He is still the Hero of it, not me. He has formed me into a person that I would have marveled at when I was young. Not because she’s such a role model, or for her strength or bravery. I marvel because He has known exactly how to make me into a gentler woman who tells HIS story with joyful appreciation. An introverted and stumbling woman that somehow gets to participate in all that He is capable of doing, all that He is wondrously accomplishing, and all that He is writing in this life… for His glory, not mine. 

There’s not much arguing going on between me and God these days. He has reshaped and remolded me in the most wonderful ways. That is why now I am not as reluctant to say “Yes.” His perfect work has gradually transformed this Moses-Gideon-Jonah person into someone a bit closer to an Isaiah. And the only way that could ever happen was for Him to require more of me than I ever thought I could give, then place me in a front row seat (strapped in so that I couldn’t run) to watch Him provide everything I need, and to witness His supplying more than I ever thought HE could give. 

God: “I am with you.” 

Me: “Yes.”

God: “I am with you.”

Me: “Yes, Lord. No arguments here.”

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:24

read part 1 of sandi’s story

read part 2 of sandi’s story

Sandi Youngren is CoFounder of Compassion Connection, a missions organization based in Ecuador. She travels and speaks at women’s conferences or gatherings and owns a cottage industry that supports help to women escaping sex trafficking. She also encourages women through her YouTube channel “The Truth Booth.” She says that her most treasured time is spent with her kids and grandkids, and she hopes for more of that in the future.

You can follow Sandi here: YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/c/TheTruthBooth IG: sandiyoungren also trth_booth

See Full Bio…

Published by Holly J Clemente

Holly Joy Clemente passionately loves God and family, and she's living God's dream for her life in the last place she would've ever imagined...Mexico! Holly and her husband Noe believe that parenting their six children is their highest calling, and in addition to raising their kids, they serve as full-time missionaries, working with children and seeing families redeemed and restored by the grace of God. Challenges like having the water shut off, nightly searches for scorpions, and no A/C during the summer have become manageable with the help of Jesus, friends, coffee, a good book, and 5 minutes in the bathroom by herself.

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