Here we go! #IFLEAD2015

Today is the day! Months of anticipation approaching their climax as I taxi down the runway: first stop Minneapolis to pick up some good friends from the Mitten, second stop Orlando for the IF:Local Leaders Gathering.

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Back in May, my dear friend Caitlin and I were calling back and forth onthe phone, having a bit last minute decided that we were going to try and snag some tickets to this event.  At that time, I didn’t know where I would be living come September or have any clue what finances would look like but we did it anyway.  Another one of those anythings.  God grabbed two more dear ladies from our IF:Holland leadership team and we booked flights and rooms.  Oh my.  Then this morning, I woke at 3:44, kissed my babies and said so long.  Now, the plane rises with the sun and the peace and joy are overflowing.  Steady, heart, steady.

The journey to today has been surprising.  The week after we moved to the farm, IF:Equip began a study of the beautitudes; each week we focused on one verse.  What an awesome reminder of how we are to live in relationships!  I loved how each week seemed so timely: reminders of grace when I was frustrated, or mercy when I saw pain.  There are no coincidences I guess.  Being at the farm has been tough — learning how to navigate the waters of relationships that have been long distance for at least eight years is not easy.  NOT easy.  My parents have been close friends to Jeff and me for years, but our family of four disrupts very particular rhythms.  Plus, we can be messy. 🙂  I love how God provides the words we need for our various seasons.

Then, a few weeks ago, IF:Equip began a study of Nehemiah in preparation for IF:Pray tomorrow night.  Nehemiah was an interesting man!  What amazed me was how he did nothing without first approaching God is prayer!  A good reminder.  Nehemiah, in good favor with a foreign king during a time of exile, was given even greater favor to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city of the Israelites.   He rebuilds, againts foes, gathering the community of God’s people, listing them by name over and over and over.  I love this image of community.

For tomorrow, I have unexplainable hope.  A night dedicated to prayer.  A little back story: as Jeff and I prepared to move to the farm this spring in a whirlwind, many people prayed over us and the farm.  We believe God was calling us back to the land of our family.  Words of healing, restoration, growth, unity, living dirt, permeated prayers and prophecies.  We believe God has great plans and desires for this land we’ve moved to in ways we cannot even imagine, that my Grandpa did not imagine, that parents have yet to imagine, and we want to step into that promise without fear or hesitations.  For those of you who don’t know, Healthy Homestead, my Mom and uncle’s business that operates on Grandma’s land, was named after 2 Chron 7:14:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Thus the name, HealTHY Homestead.  This land, and our family, is in need of great healing.  Unity, community, humility, grace….are lacking. So I send an  invitation to my family, and now to you who support us, near and far: join me in calling on the name of God, humbling ourselves, seeking Him who gives all good things, to interrupt our lives of security, independence and self-sufficiency and let us dive more deeply into relationship with God, where no part of who we are or how we live is left untouched by His influence, His love, and His truth.  Join me, in the name of Jesus, demanding that the devil release his grip on our hearts, relationships, and on this land.  Like the Israelites in their exile, we are ready to return to God to rebuild what He has given us – each of us individually important in the communal restoration, rejoicing in the Lord.

I have great hope.  More to come soon.

Anything(s)

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading.  When Netflix is gone and local friends are few and weekday commitments are nil AND you’ve run out of data to peruse Facebook and Instagram, you read, and you read a lot. (By the way, life without Netflix is actually quite great.  Rarely we’ve wished its return but enjoy the evening push to be creative, to be relational, to sleep even, instead of fulfilling our unnecessary and culture-fueled desire to dull our brains with blue-lighted-addicting entertainment. But that’s a side note.)  I recently finished a reread of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Anything by Jennie Allen, and have started reading both One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Holy Cows & Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food by Joel Salatin.  Each author challenges me in many ways, their words and thoughts merging with the heard musings of random radio preachers left on in someone’s car or the online blurbs of average joe or jane sharing their struggles in farming or choosing Jesus.  Both Harper Lee and Ann Voskamp are reminding me of the beauty of the written language in our society of acronyms and abbreviations.  Have we lost it, our ability to communicate with flourish and insight?  Or did we choose to walk away?

Anyway, on a quick trip to Meijer for parmesan, Raena’s favorite food besides potatoes, butter, or anything with sugar, I lazily left the radio on the Moody station.  (After years of spewing distaste for anything Moody related, I think God is getting back at me by having someone else leave the radio tuned to said station in my van.  The nerve.  And of course, each time I surrender to its fuzz-accented sounds, I am challenged and encouraged.)  “Anything that dulls the pain meant to push you to God is an idol.”   Immediately my mind goes to alcohol at the end of a long day, or the friends I know who’ve chosen stronger substances to help them ignore past wounds or future anxieties, or coworkers who keep typing, emailing, calling-to-meetings to keep from going back to the loneliness of home.  Or like Boo, we run into our lonely home and lock the doors, because the pain of the world, the hateful words of people, are just too much.  This voice said anything that dulls the pain meant to push us to God.  Let’s look beyond substances and physical fleeing.  What about the little things I choose daily that push me away from being pushed to God?  What’s my anything?

Of course, I was reading a book called Anything at the time as well.  Jennie Allen is referring to a different kind of anything, a “God I want to do anything for you!” kind of anything.  The “I am fully in, God” kind of anything.  I read Jennie’s book, and I tempted to say I’m already doing my anything—I just moved didn’t I?  I am living with my parents aren’t I?  I’m “working” for my Mom again aren’t I?  Isn’t that enough?  That’s enough.  I’m sure it’s enough.  I’m doing it.  I’m good.  Don’t have to worry about it.   I’ve surrendered enough.  I mean I think I have, right?

No, Mags, it’s not enough. I want all of you.  I want you to quit dreaming about what’s next in your journey here and live this transition. 

My first anything is keeping me from my second anything.  That first anything, of constantly fixing and never resting and continuously dreaming of what’s next, is keeping me from living in the transition that is my second anything, of living on the farm, one day at a time, being in relationship with God instead of talking about Him like He’s not in the room.    I have chosen to walk away from insight and flourish even at its simplest in a flawed attempt at being quick to complete the sentences of my life.  To check off the box of the second anything without first digging into the first.  To try and chase out Boo unfairly.  To want a “fixed” food system without changing the way I buy.   To pray for a revived or restored people alone and in silence, without inviting the voices of companions to join in the song.

I am often overwhelmed with no matter how different the sources may be, a Virginian farmer or Colorado preacher-mom, similar themes wind their way into my stream of consciousness from books, radio, the webs, and friends and family.  I guess when God has something I need to receive, He makes it clear.

So I will keep reading, inviting the voices of thinkers and believers who traversed country and life I have yet to see into the depths of my heart and soul, causing me to laugh and tear at the idea that I thought I had it down this time.  As Jesus commands the woman to “Go and sin no more!” I will go, not letting my faults stop me, but in my going, in my second anything that’s daily revealed and practiced, will be aware of my first anything, inviting God’s grace to reveal the idols that should be no more.

Able To Be Led

Today I am thinking about being led.  And how we can be led.  Or let ourselves be led.  My generation, specifically those in the Sonlight Curriculum followed by Hope College worlds (read: bubbles), has been encouraged to be leaders, changers, great thinkers, SAVE THE WORLD KID OR YOU’RE WORTHLESS kinds of individuals but at the great loss of humility and the ability to be led.  Yes, ability to be led.  Ability, by definition, is the possession of the means or skill to do something, and to be led takes means and skill.  Funny, as I thought we had to study to lead, not to be led.  I have spent my whole life learning to lead and now, I am trying to figure out how to let go of the leadership.

When I think of “being led”, my mind first goes to marriage.  At different points growing up, my parents were quite influenced by very conservative circles that taught fairly strict male headship; I can remember coming home for a visit in college, preparing to leave to spend time with high school girlfriends as my parents readied for bed.  “Do you think it’s ok for you to be going out once your father is asleep?” Mom asked.  I’m pretty certain I just laughed and said, “See you in the morning!”  So, for as old fashioned (which is a good movie by the way!) as this particular episode is, it encourages me to ponder these ideas of being led by those we love and trust most.  Before Jeff and I were engaged, I remember one of the first experiences I had in what I believe to be hearing the Lord clearly: “Follow Jeff wherever he goes.”

And then five years later...they're back!
And then five years later…they’re back!

I repeat—I was taught to be a leader!  I was taught to think, and challenge, and make strong decisions.  I did not need a husband to help with that.  But this partnership, this having someone to make decisions with, to support and be supported in times of change, has made me want to need him.  Explain that one.

This year we were invited to 14 weddings –and we are actually able to attend 12 (We love you, friends, but still.  Whew.).  Over and over I hear wedding vows and sermons about joining in this lifelong partnership and covenant with the one we love.  I instinctively cringe when someone tells the woman to follow or submit.  But why?  Why do we think that allowing someone else to lead us makes us weak?

I submit: when we allow someone else to lead us, we embrace our humanity, and in it find beauty and rest.

We felt led to be married.  Best decision I ever made—even for someone who never wanted to marry a missionary or anyone under 6ft tall.  We felt let to have children early in our marriage.  I was exhausted for nearly two years straight but I cannot begin to explain the love and gratefulness I have for my not-so-little Raena J.  I felt led to leave a work position that held much promise.  I like who I am now so much more.  We felt led to list our house and move to Indiana.  Still waiting for that verdict.

These are not decisions I would have made on my own.  In fact, these decisions challenged much of what I thought was the plan for my future, or what I thought was best.  But these times of decision making create humility.  When we invite others to lead, we create respect for the insight of others.  And allow others to speak the truth we cannot see or see yet.page-0

The best definition I have ever heard for humility is that God is God and I am not.  Amen.  As a believer in Christ, I am challenged to let God lead me.  To quite my own shouting of “I can do it myself!” that have echoed off the walls of my life since I was two and allow someone to sooth and push me in ways I would not have imagined in my small scope.

On the farm, high speed internet isn’t available. (Do I hear all my fellow Netflix addicts gasping?  I plan to read all the books my parents own while we live here.  Side note – Jeff checked all few hundred of the classic literature titles I read in high school to discover he had read only 14 of them.  #homeschoolwin.) Anyway, with streaming no longer an option, I have all my music on shuffle, not updated since 2007, and am bombarded by Zorac’s big head and overcome with sadness from a highschool love screaming infidelities.  But then, Chris Tomlin, albeit not my first choice of CCM, if I choose it at all, smoothly slips out the tinny speakers: “All the way my Savior leads me.”  How ironic.  He leads by still waters.  He leads in His truth.  He leads in His righteousness.  Psalm 61:2: Lord, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

And so, I begin a new kind of education that Sonlight or Hope did not teach:  I want to be able to be led. I want to possess the skills necessary to let others lead me.  I want to reach rocks higher than I.

Pictured Rocks on our honeymoon
Pictured Rocks on our honeymoon

 

SIDE NOTE:  Thanks to all who have been encouraging and asking me to write!  But I need a little guidance (lead me?); what would you like to see?  I can of course just spill my messy thoughts, I can share family updates, but I’ve also considered a bit of a Scripture series because there ain’t no words better than the Word.  And the current polarization of our culture is continually pushing me back to the Word as I search to understand how to live. I was given the privilege and challenge of co-preaching a few weeks ago with my mentor and I LOVED writing that sermon (you can listen here if you want).   Comment below or shoot me an email. 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Big changes this past weekend.   I could have instead said “big celebrations this past weekend” but what catches me the most is what each event initiated or indicated.

We celebrated my brother’s high school graduation.  I almost referred to him as my “kid-brother” but he really isn’t anymore.  Ignoring that fact that he’s been taller and stronger than me since he was barely 13, this weekend began a new journey for him into adulthood, career, independent decisions and BILLS, OH THE BILLS.  I am thrilled for him and excited to be nearby during this next phase.

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We showered two dear cousins with gifts and prayers as they prepare to marry in July.  These women will leave their lifelong home with their parents and step over a crazy new threshold of adventure—forget independent decisions as they learn how to live life as two-in-one.  They also will have OH THE BILLS.  But for me, marrying Jeff was my favorite and last solo decision and I pray they, even five years in (Happy Anniversary, love!), will be just as happy to have said goodbye to making decisions alone. IMG_2303_edited_Magdalene.mastin

We also accepted an offer on our house.  It has hit.  We’re saying goodbye to our first real together home, preparing this space for a new family.  We prayed that we would know who to say yes to and it was made clear.  So excited for the story of the next woman to live here!  But I will miss my big kitchen, the patio that finally has filled-in, gorgeous green ivy, and the landing in which both my little lovelies were born in the wee hours of July 23 (2012 & 2014).

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Photo Cred http://www.frontdoorphotos.net
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Photo Cred http://www.frontdoorphotos.net

I am exhausted from all the fun and challenged by all these changes.  A little over a month ago, after making the final decision to step in faith to Indiana, a dear friend encouraged me to dwell on how I personally have changed since the last time I lived in Kokomo, to write it down, exploring where I may need to pursue sharing forgiveness and where I need to firmly root myself in truth before what could be an extremely trying season.  Then this weekend, while drying dishes after a long day prepping for these parties, my dear Aunt Julie asked me, how have you changed during your time in Michigan?  Do you think that time away was necessary?

Here are a couple simple, yet incredible, answers:

In the words of Jeff, I have become more myself.  I am more comfortable with who I am and more aware of my true self.  I am becoming comfortable with not being the best at anything but being capable of most anything.  I am beginning to embrace that in most personality tests, I have even scores across the board and have a single strength in every category; I am ok with not being defined.  I am not as ashamed of my 150 pound body, with its zebra stripes all along the mid-section and a bra size that has to be special ordered.  I am artistic and creative yet ordered and particular (there is only ONE way to fold a towel, I tell you).  I am nurturing and mothering but a bit hands-off.  I can relax for hours upon hours but love the adrenaline rush of a stressful situation.  I have been in the spiritual pits and the spiritual mountain tops, which has brought me to a love for the liturgical while in pursuit of Spirit-led ministry, influenced and grateful for an ecumenical experience and a smack-in-the-face relationship with grace.

Distance, and me becoming a mother, has brought much healing and mutual respect in my relationship with my Mom.  It took me quite a long time to truly appreciate her; my younger years were too influenced by my own desires to see how much she loved and gave of herself.  Perhaps that is just the journey of children, especially moms and daughters.  Now, I watch Mom love on Raena and Reis and am so grateful.  I very much fear living in the same house again, afraid that we will clash so often that we will lose what we found again in the last four years, but believe that we love and respect each other enough to work through those issues.  I can more easily empathize and respect her opinion but don’t feel the need to always agree.  At one point growing up, when things were tougher than normal on the farm, it was my goal to make Mom smile or laugh at least once a day; worst case scenario, I’ll initiate that plan once again.

Photo Cred www.valeriedietsche.com
Photo Cred http://www.valeriedietsche.com

Lastly, I have met failure.  I have applied for jobs I really, really, really wanted, and didn’t get a second interview.  I have been called into my boss’ office to be reprimanded.  I made a mistake on an e-blast that required a formal and public apology.   I have lost dear friends because I have been far too correct all the time.  I tried to be that perfect “glowing” pregnant woman and instead spent 9 months x 2 on the couch, wishing for the due date to just be there when I woke up the next time to pee.  I have yelled my guts out at my kid only to fall in tears at being the one kind of mom I swore I wouldn’t be.  I have prayed, and worshipped, and prayed, and read scripture, and prayed some more, without feeling like God answered me although I had followed the perfect Christian formula.  BECAUSE I AM HUMAN.  I am realizing daily that I am not just called to believe in God but know that I need Him.   That grace is important too, not just truth.  That the grace He extends to me I am to extend to others.  That life isn’t set by equations, formulas, and how-tos, but by relationships.   Forgiveness is for me as well as for those who upset, hurt, or turn against me.  That you can say something dumb and hurtful to your best friend and, through the power of grace, guess what! still be best friends.  This is huge friends.  It’s what so amazing about grace.

So yes, Aunt Julie, I needed to go away, but only because God called me away (Ephesians 1:18 | I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know THE HOPE to which he has called you [emphasis mine]).  And so, so much has happened here, when I allowed myself to be aware of God’s presence, aware of and surrendering to the altering power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ.  Oh my word.

So, Zack, Sarah, Katherine, and the soon-to-be residents of 483 Graafschap Road, today I pray Ephesians 1:18 for you.  May these changes ahead bring great changes in you.  Know that changing is not losing who you are, but strengthening all of whom you are meant to be.  Celebrate the hope you have ahead in opening up space for God’s powerful moves.

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20 Years of Never

When I was 8 years old, my family moved to a small farm near Kokomo, Indiana.  We moved because my parents discerned a distinct call to move to this land, not many years before purchased by my Grandpa, for it to be “sustenance for our families”.  I, a very strong young girl, only recently a sister, made it quite clear that God was NOT including me in this call, and I have held to that for nearly 20 years.

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20 years.  20 years of saying this inheritance was no good for me.  That this call wasn’t right for me.  20 years of saying “never”.   My final year at Hope I even wrote my Philosophy of Life paper about the life journeys of my parents and Grandpa, admiring their sacrifices for faith and admitting that my faith is messy and beautiful because of what they had said yes to, but even yet I declared no farm for me!

You know what happens when you tell God never?

He waits until you really offer to dig deeper, to give it all, to go anywhere, to do anything, then He laughs and responds with, “Remember that thing to which [‘cause God uses correct grammar, ya’ll] you keep saying ‘never’?  Let’s take a crack at that.”

Over the last couple years, influenced by many but in particular the last year’s journey of the Boersma family [read a bit about them at www.caitlinboersma.com], Jeff and I pressed into stirrings of changes ahead.  We reevaluated our jobs, our financial comforts, our church community, our family plans, our housing situation, etc but in most places we felt God wanted us to be even more committed to what we already were doing.  Now, I see those as times of preparation, slowly becoming willing to give up pieces of our life so that when we were called to change nearly everything, we would be ready.

Well I guess He thinks we’re ready.  God’s been bugging us, confirming it through Scripture and the words and encouragement of our community, and we’re saying yes.  And now we’re moving fast.

Yup—we’re moving!  In July, this family of four is moving in with my parents and brother on R.C. Ripberger Farm in Kokomo, Indiana.  We see this housing situation as temporary (and to be honest, quite scary) but, our prayer asking God to prepare a place for us was answered when my parents offered the rooms and showed willingness to welcome our crazy and different lifestyle into their home.  Raena is excited to live with her “favorite person,” Grammellow, and “swim in her pool every day!”  Most everything else about the move is unclear – we don’t have a vision of what “the point is,” or the long-term goal but just that we are to go and go now.  And we’re excited to be near family and explore whatever He does have next!

Photo credit: www.bgphotographystudios.com
Photo credit: http://www.bgphotographystudios.com

But let’s be real, authentic, intentional (pick your Jesus-follower buzzword of choice):  this is scary, and sad, too.  Jeff has had a Holland address for 10 years, and me just two less than that. Here we got engaged, graduated from college, bought our first home, and birthed two children.  Our roomies and besties at Hope transitioned with us from late-night-lovin’ young’ns to early-to-bed, job-holding adults – Benjy, Marky-Pants, Mikey, Koon, Fras, Laura/Lola/George, Christy, Jenny-boo.  We have attended the same church for nearly 8 years, welcomed into families and led by such gifted and willing spiritual mothers and fathers—Barb and Ross, Terri and Dave, Benjamin and Simone, Bill and Helen, Barbara, Dr. Brouwer, Dr. Portfleet, Joe and Tami.  We’ve had great professional and life mentors and job opportunities—Darlene, Katie, Dave, Justin, Dan, Ricki, Ellen, Paul, Barb.  And then our body – our home group and what we have called our community dinner group: our people with whom we’ve prayed, cried, laughed and raised kids with!  Amy, Sandi, Matt, Amanda and Levi, all seven (make that eight!) Tennants (who’ve welcomed my girls like sisters!).   Brent, Caitlin, E, S, and V; Taylor, Brittnee, and Ezra; Craig, Kate, and Thatcher; Aaron and Hannah; Matt and Jana…and those whose births we’re awaiting this year!  And there are so many more individuals and families who’ve been essential to our Holland home.  A part of our hearts will always be with each of you, relishing the years we’ve lived life together.  We love you.  We are grateful for you.  And we couldn’t make this move without you.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, today and once we’re gone.

Holland will always be dear to me.  To us.  We’ll visit often and hope you Hollanders will do the same and join us for weekends on the farm!

Hoosiers – here we come!  We don’t do life slowly or surfacey– we are excited to jump in and jump in deep.  We’re excited to find people with whom we can break bread and drink wine (preferably spicy reds).   And to my family in Indiana: a couple times a year just hasn’t been enough.  I am so happy that Jeff and my kids will get to know you more and glean from your wisdom.   And maybe understand my humor a little bit better…

We appreciate your prayers on this next step.  We continue to move forward, having faith that the Lord will provide that Boldness cocktail we’ll need to get through the days:

“For the Spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

And, possibly, I’ll remember to never say never again.  🙂

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