20, and Being Here.

Be careful not to forget the Lord your God…He brought you out…He led you through… Remember the Lord, and Praise Him. (Deuteronomy 8)

Twenty years ago this past week, Hubs and I took our first roadtrip together to the #GreatWhiteNorth.  Where he’s from.  We had been dating for about 3 months at the time. Both of us were preparing for ministry as single people with calls to very different demographics and places.  In fact. I had returned only a couple weeks before from interviewing with a church plant on the West Coast. We weren’t young.  I was going to graduate in a few months. We had a lot in common but we were also from different generations, very different personalities, different ways of looking at ALOT of things.

But here I was travelling to meet his family.  To see his life.  Talking about how all this would work if we decided God had freed us from our separate calls to be single, to move forward in ministry as a family.  Alot of the trip I was like “what in the world?” So surreal, travelling out of the country to meet the family of this man I’d only really gotten to know well a few short weeks ago.

On the way, it became apparent that all the “what ifs” were starting to aggravate us both.

“If we decided to…”

“If we got married, what would…”

“How would it work if…”

And then he just decided to ask me to marry him, going down the highway at 100 clicks per hour in the middle of nowhere Alberta. (I didn’t find out til after that he had a plan for a romantic spot but in true #GreatWhiteNorth fashion, there was a snowstorm at Lake Louise that weekend!)  Hubs asked me in an act of faith, in order to move our conversation out of the “what if’s” to “what will be”… it was overwhelming, happening fast, but as much as there were so many unanswered questions, we felt we needed a commitment to each other to really find out the answers.

So I said yes.  It was a great day.  It felt right, and real, and wonderful, after being called away from my dreams of marriage and family a few years prior.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

But it did, and here we are, 20 years later, still riding the roller coaster that is our life together.  And I can’t help but ask myself the very question that popped into my mind a few days after he popped the question, in a quiet moment sitting in a car on a street in a town I’d never been to before…

“How in the world did I get here from there?”

It was a leap of faith in every sense of the word #faith ~ now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1-6) ~ but it was more than that.

It was the power of the Holy Spirit guiding me to places I never dreamed I’d go, into a good land where I’ve dwelled and wanted for nothing, but also sometimes into a wilderness that made me question why I left everything I knew, everyone I loved, for the sake of this.

“How did I get here from there?”

It was God and God alone who guided me to this place to “commit my ways to the Lord, to take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37)  That verse didn’t mean to me that God gave me just what I wanted and asked for, but He, through His Holy Spirit did a work that allowed me to give up things I thought I wanted (the here) to take me to places I never dreamed were possible (the there).  

So here I am, no longer in #thethere but living in #thehere ~ this family I’ve been given is my home ~ that good land that God promises when we walk in obedience.  I don’t deserve the goodness, but I’ll admit I feel sorry for myself thinking I don’t deserve the loss that comes along with the goodness either. But it all… it all…

it’s where I am…here, in this land…

#here.

 

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O Death, Where is Your Sting?

In honor of My Daddy ~ Poppy ~ who went to be with Jesus on June 9, 2015.  I know that I know that I know that I will see him again someday.  I know that I know that I know that he is experiencing more of what life is supposed to be as he worships, works and loves us from heaven. I know that he loved me.  And wow, did I love him. 

(This post recorded an experience I had on March 15, 2009, following the dear of my friend Angie and was shared on a previous blog at that time) 

I had this experience ~ revelation, epiphany ~ on Friday night that left me breathless. My friend Angie is gone, and I am so very sad about her loss. I can say that and still know that my life goes on just like it has been on a daily basis. My loss isn’t like others as she wasn’t in my life, affecting my life experience regularly as she was before. My life isn’t really affected, not like her husband or children, parents and siblings, co-workers and church family she left behind. They feel it sharply now. My loss is about the friend I knew when we were together, when we worked side by side, when she was sometimes the loyal person I needed to keep going.

This experience left me quaking with something “Other”. The Other being the desire to meet God, to sit with Jesus, to look into his eyes, to see him face to face. Because for the first time ever, in all the times I have grieved the loss of someone near to me, as much I waited and waited for the agony of MY loss, in the end, as I sobbed on my kitchen floor Friday night while Hubby was out with the kids ~ bless my dear man, he knew, he could tell I needed space to let go ~ all I could feel was joy for what I knew Angie was experiencing at that very moment. #JOY.

And well, a tinge of jealousy for the sheer magnitude of where she was, in heaven, face to face with her Lord and Savior… #home.

She was home. She isn’t in pain. She isn’t struggling with day to day and she isn’t struggling with dying. She is home. She is in celebration and the wonder of where she is, WHO she is with, and the journey that brought her there.

And for me, my sobs of sadness turned to echoing shouts of praise and joy in my kitchen, tears running my face, hands in the air, celebration.  For the people who befriended Angie and introduced her and her family to the saving grace of Jesus just a few short years ago… shouts of praise, for the wonder that is the Reaching Out Body of Christ, whose arms are open to those who are seeking, those who long to know Home, the Home that is knowing and following Jesus.

It hit me… again, and again, and again… that she is where she is because she fell in love with the same Savior I’m in love with, and that she is no longer suffering, she need not fear the sting of death because she knew Jesus, because the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11) that surrounded her, watched over her while she was on earth are now celebrating her life and the saving work of Jesus in her life these days. We are sad here on earth but there is none of that at Home. No. None of that.

I ended up dancing around my kitchen with joy ~ JOY! ~ for what Angie is experiencing these very moments… questions answered (if she even cared to ask them anymore)… a body whole and able to run and jump and see the neverending sun… a voice not strained because of morphine and exhaustion… a heart free to love and not have to endure the captivity of the sickness that surrounded her.

Yes, she fought as she should have for every single day with her family on earth. I was so proud of her and how she worked to make sure her boys understood what was happening, and told them that they only had today and they would live it for today. I was touched by the blessing of her warmth as she wrapped her arms around me a few weeks ago when we got the chance to visit, how she cared that I was sad, and how she let me love her through my tears, how she embraced the things I wanted to tell her, about what her loyalty and love, her servant spirit meant to me in the years we spent together, how she had made a difference in my world, how I admired who she was as my sister in Christ, fellow mother and worker in the church, as a person created by God.

She fought for her life and then she won in her death… because death does not have victory over anything if we live beneath the saving grace of Jesus… what a fitting lenten experience for those of us left behind… to see the destructive force of death that is part of this earth, and know that we know that we know that death does not have the last laugh. No.

Angie is alive and well and though her body has perished, she lives in the presence of Jesus Christ always. I celebrate that. I celebrate that she is home. She is home.

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death is your sting? (I Corinthians 15) 

Angie is home. She is finally home.

I Used to Hate #ValentinesDay

DISCLAIMER: Just so you know, this has NOTHING to do with meeting my husband.  Having someone committed to me for life is not the reason why I have found the redeemable in this day.  Very little actually. With that in mind…

I used to hate #ValentinesDay.  Hate might be a strong word but what other can I use?  It depressed me.  It hurt.  Even as far back as elementary school, back when you HAD to bring a Valentine for everyone, there was this incongruence because I saw the mean kids giving lovey-dovey stuff to the kids they were mean to and it all seemed so cheap, even back then.

And then middle school… all I can say is THANK GOODNESS for my best friend L.  She is beauty inside and out.  All the guys loved her and fought for her attention.  And what did she do?  She sent ME candygrams with cute little sayings.  If it weren’t for her, that day would have been unbearable.

High school and the rose thing didn’t change much, and although I was focused more on getting good grades and my other activities, it still was a significant feeling of loss when none of the guys noticed me.  I had been brought up to believe in the importance of marriage and my parents met in high school.  I didn’t know anything other than “I am missing out!!”

I look back now and can see, with some perspective, that I’m glad I “missed out” in those teen years.  Not so much then.  It hurt.  It was a real hurt.  In college, my synicism about it all was on high alert which looking back now, was my saving grace.  I remember a guy giving me a card on Valentine’s Day (sorry, I can’t even remember his name) that said, “I love you” and all I thought was “how could you love me?  You don’t even know me?”  And little did I know that my cynicism was starting to change me, but in a good way.

The changing day came in 1995.  By then, I was making myself absolutely miserable believing that I was NEVER going to find a man who would want to marry me.  I had glimpses of what it might be like in significant friendships, but nothing long lasting.  Past my mid-20s you know, a girl starts to wonder what is wrong with her.

That night now 16 years ago, I remember it clearly.  I went home from work moping.  All my married and coupled friends were going to the church Valentine’s banquet.  I was even babysitting for one family while they went.  As I sat in their living room, surrounded by pictures of their wedding day, holding their little baby, it hit me full force that there was a very good chance that I would need to stop believing I would someday be married and start getting on with my life.  I cried at the thought, but I also felt relief at the idea that I would just have to do this as a family of ONE and that would have to be okay.

It’s not like I never longed for the dream of marriage and a family again, no, it was a constant battle.  But that was a turning point.  Instead of continuing to rent an apartment, I made the decision to try to find a house I could afford.  I started spending my Saturday nights building myself up and not pining away for someone else to do it for me.  I started looking into grad school options that might turn my dream of working with teens full time (never once believing I would be a pastor in the beginning of that) into a reality.

And by the first Sunday of November 1995, God had done a great work in my life.  At the altar in the front of my home church, I prayed a prayer of surrender, the core issue being my desire for a husband and children.  THis was huge for me, since all along, even as a very young child, I had pictured myself always as a Mommy first. And that surrender brought room for a new calling, one that would unfold over the next few years as I made the decision to resign a much-loved job, sell my first home, and move away from my beloved church family in order to attend Seminary.

Many of you know the story from there.  Seminary, the place where I went completely surrendered to living single for the rest of my life, and serving God in His church, is the place I met my husband.  We didn’t plan meeting there.  I sure didn’t go looking for a husband.  I went determined to go where God needed me to go regardless of what it meant.

Well… I celebrated my first Valentine’s Day in a committed relationship in 1999, already six weeks married.  I was approaching 31 years of age before the idea of celebrating significant and committed love on Valentine’s Day to anyone other than God became a reality.

And I know I’m blessed to share life with Hubs, and to enjoy the blessing of children in our family.  But I live in another reality, that in God deciding to answer that prayer in my life after I had completely surrendered my desire for a husband and children to him, He asked my to make other sacrifices.  I gave up living close to my parents and siblings.  I gave up my country.  I gave up the most precious and important relationships in my home church, people that I still miss on a daily basis.  Love as always, rarely comes without sacrifice.  In surrender, I was asked to surrender more.

To me, that is the reality of love, and the signficance of setting aside AT LEAST one day to count our blessings, to remember why we love, and to remember who love us.  It’s not about mushy gushy stuff but some pretty real, down to earth reminders that we are loved, whether it be by an earthly spouse is one thing, but we are loved by the Heavenly Father, who created us because He didn’t like being alone.  It is also a reminder that with love can come sacrifice almost always.  And there are many who have sacrificed in their love of me, and for that I am truly grateful.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day anymore.  And it’s not because I have a husband whom I dearly love, and who I know loves me.  It’s because I need as many reminders as possible that in the busyness of life, I sometime don’t say “I love you” enough.   I need to remember the way God used this day for His good in my life.  And hope that others might see it the same way.

Have a blessed day loving and counting your blessings!