saying goodbye when you haven’t said hello in years ::: a tribute to Ben

It’s funny how someone’s dying can bring such rekindling; how our memory of them can initiate and ignite fires you forgot were once lit—are even capable of being lit. A sweet heaviness that clings to the moments and releases nostalgia and passion for things of the past.

With Ben Caldwell though, his whole life did that: he lit fires wherever he went, powered by Holy Spirit gasoline, God the Father steady thick wood, and Jesus Christ forgiveness-filled oxygen.

I remember when I met Ben on the streets of downtown Holland. He and Kelsie had just returned from a season with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) and they were VERY ready to light fires. Jeff had known them before they left and, as we walked away, I remember Jeff saying what a difference he saw in them. We didn’t know then that the two of them, albeit for a short time, would with such passion guide the next year or two of our young adult lives. Together we did fun and crazy things and together we met on Tuesday nights, fueled by SO MUCH Misty Edwards and a passion for evangelism. I was so outside my comfort zone—not outgoing enough and not passionate enough—but sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing, I guess. I remember sharing in my ministry minor capstone class, surrounded by young men and women with a calling and an intellectual pursuit of God, probably in not the most grace-filled way, that maybe we had it wrong and Ben had it right: following God was more about passion and the extravagant “doing” than the head-led pursuit and straight-laced Sunday mornings. I see now the value of both…but thanks to Ben, among others, for inviting me to diverse ways.

Now Ben wasn’t JUST about Jesus, although that relationship guided him strongly. He was also a mean and entertaining sand volleyball player (and sometimes I’d get to play with him), a fairly hilarious youth leader, and somewhat absent-minded dweller (like that one time he forgot we were holding hands while praying and he had some adjustments to make…). And these are just a couple observations from a short, short season of my life and Ben’s where our paths not only crossed but blazed ahead together.

When I think of that season, if I choose one word to describe what changed down in my soul, it’s this: grace. I encountered a whole new understanding of faith, of relationship, of ministry. Before Chimamanda Adichie’s sharing became a TedTalk Select, I was learning that the limitations of letting a single story define a person hinders not just that person’s place in your heart but your heart in and of itself. I once had to seriously apologize to Ben (not an uncommon theme of that season, and honestly, I can’t recall for what); I remember sitting across the table from him outside Jimmy Johns and he just poured forgiveness over me like he had an unending ocean of grace inside his soul. He probably did. And I sunk deep.

And so, I’m unendingly grateful for Ben, the whole Caldwell family, the entire Without Walls community (and Philip Yancey), for inviting me in to a different way of community and expectation and spirituality. For encouraging me into something wider. Last week we said our earthen goodbye to Ben, nearly three years since the last time I told him hello, but I greet daily the opportunity to remember his legacy of passion and grace, of setting fires for God, and forging a story of continued forgiveness.

 

::: Benjamin David Caldwell passed away on September 20, 2017, just barely a month after his 28th birthday. If for you, as it once was for me, the reality of heroin and meth addiction exists only in news stories and movie plots, educate and introduce yourself. Ben spent the last season of his life fighting for and sharing hope for people lost in a painful world of darkness. If people you know struggle with substance abuse or addiction, don’t let that single story deprive you of knowing the many facets of their being. Be FOR the families of people hurting and fighting for truth and care to help set their loved one free. And if addiction is a part of your story, seek help and real community. For more info on addiction recovery and to join in the continued work close to Ben’s heart, visit http://www.teenchallengeusa.com :::

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“Not a bad way to start a day. When you know the Son it gives a lot more beauty to the sun.”                       posted by Benjamin David Caldwell : August 26, 2017
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love, like me

Let me share a short story about Jesus with you:

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10-13

I’ve been having many conversations about what it means to be in community with people. To love people.  Especially those outside our lifestyle, culture, our compatible Enneagrams or general understanding.  What is discrimination, how the word has evolved now into its deeply hurtful meaning.  Previously, discrimination meant only recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.  And then, as humans, we regularly decide, over and over and over, that different means bad or unworthy or ugly or out of place.  Now, discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, religion, age, culture, sex, style.  We see the poor use of discrimination ALL. OVER.  I don’t need to list where.

But I do want to discuss one place. The church.  I’m not talking about how your pastor relates to the people in the community, rather how the people in the community relate to the church that they choose.  We go to churches based on finding like-minded people, or we want to “be fed”, or perhaps we want more friends in our age group and it comes down to either a church or bars (personally, why not church in a bar??).  The question that keeps rolling around and around in my head and heart: is this how it is supposed to be?  As we church-hop, we use the old-fashioned discrimination: this church worships with this music, while this one chooses to practice infant baptism, while this one encourages declaring and claiming.  We recognize and understand the difference between one and the other.  But perhaps we look at our brothers and sisters in our various denominations with too much of that second understanding of discrimination: unjust treatment based on differences.

I was raised in a Roman Catholic church by charismatic parents who didn’t (and don’t) believe in all that the Catholic Church teaches.  In college, I began attending a Vineyard community in Holland and was a “Stakeholder” there until our move.  If you don’t know much about one or the other (and I mean really know versus what you think based on your distant interpretation), I encourage you to look into them.  There is great beauty and reverence in each group of Christ-followers.   My deep engagement in the different communities brought me to a great appreciation for the many faces of American Christianity.  As an upper teen, I began to question the necessity of such division though in the current Church.   I’m not just talking about denominational differences either: the Church is separated by race, socio-economic levels, food preferences, worship preferences, the list goes on and on and on…

Back in June, I co-taught at our old church with my mentor.  We spoke about unity.  That sermon still simmers in me almost daily.  In looking at the Old Testament use of the Hebrew word for unity, “Yachad”, I was struck by the use in Psalm 19:9:

“The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them (yachad) are righteous”

 All of God’s laws, in unity, are righteous.  We cannot piecemeal together a story of truth, or grab pieces that we like and toss the others.  And as I thought about God’s people, all people really, I was challenged in that we cannot grab hold of the people in the Church that we like and toss the others.  God’s word, and God’s law, and the Covenant, Old Covenant fulfilled by the New Covenant, gathered and glorified as a whole are righteousness, are completion, are beauty beyond all compare.  I believe this is what God’s desire is for the Church.  That in its unity we find righteousness.

So let’s look beyond the division of denomination to the division of persons.  Our culture teaches us how a person is to look or how a person is to act.  But that’s just culture.  When it comes to morality or law, I believe we are given Scriptural understandings of right and wrong.  But the Christian faith leaves much room for cultural variation.   In fact, I would say we are encouraged in Scripture to dive right in to the cultures and lives variant from our own as Jesus and Paul were prone to do.

I was recently encouraged to be immersed in the ways, works, and words of Jesus (Thanks Jo Saxton!).   I’ve been reading through the Gospels, slowly, but thoroughly soaking them up.  Return with me to the story I shared at the beginning of my word-vomit-of-a-post:

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I also recently heard someone say that your friends need you most not when they’re right but when they’re wrong.  Not when Matt9imgthey’re joyful, but when they’re full of sorrow.  If we only pursue relationship with those like us, considering the others to be “less than”, I think we’ve lost t
he message of Christ.  I am not saying that each of us should go out and become besties with the woman we don’t like  because she’s the woman we don’t like, but I beg you, begin to tear down the walls that you’ve created and be open the possibility that you COULD be besties with the woman you don’t think you like.

Or maybe.  Considering that God would call you into a church community with people that carry different theological beliefs than you (ya know, beyond the Creed theological beliefs).

Or maybe.  Considering that God would want you to dialogue with your family member who dresses and adorns differently than you.

Because when I look at Jesus, I can see no excuse for not inviting people into our life.   For not welcoming those who aren’t comfortable with our lives  as we similarly  cancarry discomfort in theirs.  So come with me and look at Jesus.  Pursue a life of mercy.  Our Teacher initiated and reciprocated relationship with the “less thans” and “outsiders” of his time.

So know the words.  Imitate the ways.  Believe in and observe His works, then, now, always, in those like you and those not.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8



“I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to the infants.  Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in your sight.”

Matthew 11:25

Reis Eliana : July 2014

Lord, I beg thee.  Make me humble like an infant, on my knees reaching for yours in submission and surrender and total dependence on your revelation and provision.  Help me to not raise myself by stepping on others based on anything—on anything!!  Let me see each person through the eyes of your heart and not the lens of my culture and own selfishness.  Let it be so. 

 

Risk | Broken chains, thin gold threads of grace, and unchippable paint

I am teaching a literature class this year for three home schooling families—a family I just met, a family I grew up with (and my mom had early hopes of me marrying into), and my family (my first cousin).   We just finished four weeks on Fahrenheit 451 and we discussed the risk(s) that Guy Montag is willing to take for that which he believes is important for society.  We also looked at Faber, and his fear of taking risks.  The kids/students/young adults/young ‘ns (PC Fairy, please help me!) each wrote an essay on what they would risk for something they believe is important.  I LOVED their responses, reading their heart poured out on two pieces of black and white paper—we want to do THIS because THIS is worth it.

Last year as I saw God moving in crazy ways in my friends’ families, Jeff and I started asking God what are we supposed to be doing that we’re not.  Is it time for a change in any area of life?  We went piece by piece through our life—Jeff’s job, my job(s), our church, our finances, our house, our cars, our entertainment, our growing family.  And then obviously we moved from our complacency among Dutch tulips to struggle near highways lined with corn and billboards for carpet FROM THE COB (direct quote, friends).  As I sat in a session during the IF : Local Leaders Gathering a phrase kept ringing in my ears: The days of complacency are over.

So I say to you, friends and strangers, THE DAYS OF COMPLACENCY ARE OVER.

I prayed “Anything, God!” and now I must daily live in the repercussions of the risk we took.   And I struggle.  But I choose to believe that the risk is worth the fullness of life and liberty yet to come.  I have seen a beautiful vision of large chains wrapped around the barns of this community, breaking, no—shattering, down upon the earth, sending a dust storm that covers everything in grey.  But out wind these small, glimmering threads of grace green that grow into blossoming fields, and the implements shine with this paint so impeccable you know you could shoot it with bullets or kick it with steel-toed clodhoppers or write with your Grandma’s biggest diamond against it and it would. not. chip.  And so I cling to that promise when it would be easier to run from the knowledge of love, of the God in the doorway.   It would be easy to say I have risked enough.  I pray, “God, here is my family but please, ohpleaseohpleaseohplease, do not take them.”  For I fear the risk, for I am Faber, aware and convicted, but not sure how to step out into the hope that knowledge and revelation have given us.

I ask myself WHY? Today, I pushed a student, asking him over and over again, why, why, why? Why did you respond that way to the character?  Why do you think that impacted you so?   So, turn the tables, teach: Why are you responding this way?  Well, because I like comfort.  I would rather choose the Christians I like to live in community with then embrace any and all the people around me.  Because I would rather sip on wine with a safe best friend than set a table for new relationships.  Because I like that my checking account actually has more money in it than what is needed for one month’s living.

But you know what’s better than easy friends, wine and money?  Broken chains, thin gold threads of grace, and unchippable paint.     jhtrisk

I am burdened by this incredible vision of fullness and beauty that can come from God alone.  A friend reminded me today of Moses and his story with the Israelites: Can you images how frustrating it must have been to come down from the mountain after these unimaginable experiences with God to find that his friends, his family, his community had chosen something easier once again?  Because they didn’t understand the ways of God and were frustrated by it?  LET US NOT BE THAT WAY.  Let us not choose what looks to be the easy road and instead choose the road of fullness and intimacy and mystery.

So I ask you: what are you willing to risk to break the chains in your family, to nourish the sprouts of new life just itching to pop through the dust of your home, to embrace an outer layer that God has deemed so beautiful and FULL and shining that no earthly edge can penetrate?

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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