Tuesday Grace Letters:1

March 4, 2014

Kara, the writer behind the Mundane Faithfulness blog, has invited other bloggers to participate in a practice of grace- writing letters every week, each letter with its own focus. I do not know Kara. We live in the same city and some of my friends and family know her, but I have only followed her story in bits and pieces as others have posted her blog posts to their Facebook pages. Kara’s story is heart-rending and powerful and in the midst of her own suffering, she gives people a glimpse of Christ in her, the hope of glory. Today’s assignment is to write a letter to myself, 10 years in the future.

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When I was around 7, I told God I wanted to serve him. No one was nearby and I was on the elementary school playground up the street from our house. It was nearing dinnertime and the sky was streaked with the reds and oranges of Colorado sunset in the Fall. I was on top of the large wood structure that looked like a tower (because at that time, I thought being up high meant I could be closer to God). I had no idea what it meant to serve God with my life, but that did not matter. All that mattered was wanting to give God the only thing I really could. And so I did that.

Ten years later, at 17, I was coming to grips with the reality of stepping into young adulthood, complete with college decisions and the feeling that I had to choose the right major or my entire life was doomed. I was also coming to grips with the reality that it was not as easy to trust God as it had been years before. I remember the pressure being huge and having little relief except laying awake at night worrying. Which did nothing. I still longed to serve God, but my fears about the future kept me paralyzed in exploring it.

Ten years after that, I was 27 and had stumbled into my calling and path, the plans God had had for me all along. Married for 5 years, a recent seminary grad, a lead pastor for the first time. The years between high school graduation and seminary graduation had been quite formative. I had found a major in college, started working in youth ministry, graduated, gotten married, served a church in a staff position in a tiny town in Nebraska, moved to seminary in Chicago, experienced being taken apart and put back together by a loving Christian community in grad school, and taken a call to pastor all in the span of 10 years. And I felt like it was the only thing I was made to do and be- wife and pastor, pastor and wife. It had been a long and winding road to my call and identity. But I felt like I had finally arrived somewhere.

Little did I know that the next decade of my life would take a radical turn and lead me into the deepest part of my journey thus far. From age 27-37, I experienced the difficulty of a wounding ministry call, the opening of our hearts toward being parents, the loss of a much wanted baby, cancer, thyroid disease, my husband’s lay off, infertility, and finally, the birth of my son. It would be a decade filled with tension and stress, with loss and grief, with confusion and difficult decisions. It would also be a decade of coming fully into the person God is wanting me to be. That decade changed my life entirely. It changed me entirely.

And the biggest change was my journey with God, with understanding Him, with trusting him.

From the 7 year old on the playground to the 33 year old who wasn’t quite certain she could trust God in the slightest bit to the 37 year old today who has learned more about God and herself in the last few years than ever before, it’s been wild. Really wild. And while I would never choose to do it again, I would not choose it be different either. Well, maybe parts of it I wish were different, but not all of it.

So, to project myself 10 years into the future is a bit intimidating. Because I’m not the naive 7 year old, or the apprehensive 17 year old, or the emerging 27 year old now. I know that in such a short time, life can be so radically altered. Life is so fragile and tender and sweet and beautiful all at the same time, and 10 years is a long time, an awfully long time in which anything could happen. So it’s a bit scary to write 10 years into my future. And besides, words matter. And because words matter, I find myself hesitant to speak (write) anything into being. It makes it so real to write your dreams and hopes and fears.

But… if I had to write to myself, I might say these things:

Dear self,

You are now 47. Everyone tells you that you are in the last half of life, but it’s hard for you to understand that, since you still feel like you are in your 20s. Except for your right knee. That never got better, and it pretends to be age 75 every other day or so. 

You are finally the mother of a teenager. Your son turns 13 this year. Considering that you did not want to be a parent for so long, followed by your painful fight to have your son, it probably still makes you tear up each time you think about how long it has been and how far you have come. How far your son has come. He’s growing up too fast, and yes, you say that every year.

You always wanted him to have a brother, so I hope that he was adopted somewhere along the way. It’s difficult to write about someone who doesn’t exist in your family right now, but God knows that dream, the vision you have for your family. I know that you will fall in love with that adopted boy as much as you fell for your biological son. You can’t help it. It’s how it happens. It’s how God makes it happen. I can picture you stepping back, like you so often do, and taking a few moments to just observe your sons together, your family together. I’ve often thought about what “pondering things in the heart” means. I wonder if it’s those moments when Jesus tugs you back and says, “Just quiet down and look!” And you do. And you see it. The love. The faces. The little things. The things you vow to remember, knowing full well that those memories too will slip from your mind as you age. I can only hope that somewhere in heaven God keeps those memories for us to pick up again later on. 

And then there’s Richard. His hair has greyed in such a dignified manner. His smile is the same, however. The same smile you saw as you walked down the aisle that day in May over 25 years ago. He’s had his own journey, his own struggle. And he’s come out walking closer to Jesus than ever before. Content. He’s learned to be content. And that makes you breathe a bit easier.

You still miss your daughter, the one you lost when you had cancer, and when she had it, too. The one you have never gotten to touch or hear or even see other than on a computer screen in an ultrasound room. The sharpness of loss has lessened even now, but I know it will never go away. Every now and again, you think of her, wonder what she looks like, wonder what her laugh sounds like. You wonder what it must be like for her to grow up having Jesus and angels as playmates. And you worry, like you have since the day you lost her, about when you finally get to be with her, and whether you will know it’s her or not. There’s still a bit of you that tells God you could have done a fine job of raising her, that He should have let her stay. But then the pangs of watching your boys grow up and the worry and fears that sometimes creep in make you realize she’s got a good deal there with God. Still, her place at the table stays empty… at least in your heart. 

I don’t know what you will doing in 10 years. 10 years ago, I would have never thought you would be working from home, outside the pastorate. Your call to ministry came at such a high price. You did not choose it; it chose you. God chose you. And so the confusion at no longer serving a church and instead tending to diapers was a shock. It was needed, you know this. It was a good space that was necessary for healing, but it was still such a twist in your story that no one would have seen coming- least of all you. God has been good in giving you a meaningful ministry of preaching, writing, and consulting. And there are opportunities to be back in the pastorate. The question is whether it’s where you are supposed to be now. And to be honest, right now, I can’t even begin to imagine what you are supposed to become in the future. I feel like there are so many directions your calling and vocation could go. And I don’t know which one is for you. If you are back in the church, I pray that it is a good church. A community of people who want to follow Jesus for real, in ways that are filled with grace and hope and the desire to breathe faithfulness every single day. I pray that you are not inundated by meaningless meetings and petty complaints and wonky political sidetracks, but are invigorated by lives that are finding the depth of God calling to them. If you are not in the pastorate, I hope you are still preaching, consulting and writing. Somehow… I know right now, you love this work, but you have determined it is not sustainable over the next several years. But with those opportunities, you get to use some of the strongest gifts God has given you- gifts you have only recently learned to accept fully as gifts from God. Along with your limits and weaknesses- I hope you have continued to embrace those as well. Limits are gifts too, you know. 

And I know… oh, I know… in the deepest secret-place in your heart, your dream about The Farm. The house of gentle healing. The sustainable living. The radical hospitality. The generosity fueled by compassion. These virtues that have been hammered and molded and prodded and shaped in you for years. I know this secret longing, this quiet dream, that you dare not speak aloud very often for fear speaking it aloud would make it disappear. And yet it hasn’t disappeared. It has grown… into a calling perhaps? I hope you live on that urban farm, creating genuine community, planting hope and reaping grace, and feeding souls and bellies and hearts all at once, grabbing up handfuls of God as you care for this little piece of his creation, and longing to share the story of your “dark night of the soul” for those who are walking in that same difficulty. To hold the light for those who cannot hold it for themselves. 

And for you, my friend, for you I pray that you are finding Jesus still lovingly, constantly, hopefully faithful to you. I remember your trembling for so long in such anxiety. Debilitating anxiety that no one really knew. You hid it so well. From early on in your childhood, you learned to hide. But in these last years, you have grappled those monsters and found God is indeed peace. Not in a silly sort of nebulous way, but in a real way. A way that doesn’t have words because it doesn’t make sense, except to the deep of the Spirit speaking for you. I pray that in 10 years, you have found even more how deep the anchor of hope can sink in the soul. Making you more and more comfortable in the skin God created for you, bursting with the gifts and joys of union with Jesus. You have always had more going on behind your eyes than you have ever been able to share, and you’ve always been so clumsy- learning to love in shorts and starts and sputterings that you wish you would grow out of. I imagine however that that will not change, because it is what drives you back to God, pleading for his help. All that goes on behind your eyes is part of God’s doing, inviting you to share your life with Jesus, who loves you beyond any words that anyone could speak. Remember that. If there is anything you remember, I want you to remember that. And when you forget, I want you to have friends who remember on your behalf. Friends to tell you again who you are and Whose you are. And why. 

Beyond these things, I’m not sure what to write to you. You’ve learned to hold life with both the tightness of a passionate hug and the looseness of a soul that is trying to trust Someone beyond herself. I hope that in the next 10 years, the greatest word on your lips, the most important word that echoes in your soul, will not be a word, but a name: Jesus. Jesus. 

Be good to yourself and others, because God is good to you. Really. I mean it. 

Love… me 

Please click here and see Kara’s Blog and others who are participating in Tuesday Grace Letters. 

2 Responses to “Tuesday Grace Letters:1”

  1. Stunning! Your words are stunning, open, beautiful. Thank you for this heart sharing. I feel as though our hearts connected through your words. Thank you.

  2. wrenlk said

    Kara- thanks for the invitation and space to write with you. I do hope one day we will meet in person!

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