Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The heavy question: Update on the call process




Last week, we announced that pastor-daddy had a new call to consider. As we were traveling to visit that congregation, we got ANOTHER new call. The second church was able to arrange a last-minute visit for us, too. So this weekend, we gathered the family together, and we hopped on the call roller-coaster. 

We're still riding. 
And because I cope with life by writing, I'll tell you how it's going so far.  I was going to make a list of the good things and the bad things, but as I reflect, I see it is not so easy to separate them neatly. 
Here's a snapshot of the Big Feelings during the past few days.

A blessed flattening
You shall have no other gods before me. Not friends, not comfort, not roots, not place, not “security,” whatever that means.  Again, I see how small my love for God is, and how my heart seeks its happiness in the things that are passing away.  A little insecurity, a little reminder of the plain fact that in this life we control NOTHING that matters, is a hard and yet gracious invitation into the Father's arms, the only place true security is ever found.

A wider view
There are so many great ways to live as a child of God, to do this Christian life well!  We got to see His work in a tiny town in the middle of the Michigan thumb, and in the huge city of Detroit.  It looked so different in each place, and yet, the body of Christ was doing what it does, serving others in love.  The mulit-colored beauty of God is incredible!

A smaller view
Seeing the work of God all over the place reminded me of my own place. I am not the glue that holds the world together- nor is pastor-daddy.  It's easy to forget this, in our own family, even in our own community.  This is pride, and pride took a good hit during our travels. God is doing His Works all over the place through all kinds of people. He plants, and grows, and sustains. And we are tiny.  Oh, how we need Him to continue to guide, plant, and grow us as He wills!

Receiving hospitality
We had no choice but to receive hospitality from strangers. And we can never repay the debt, particularly to the church(es?) we will disappoint. Yet, they chose to give, to serve us as they could, knowing this. These small acts of love were grace to us: The thoughtfully chosen hotel rooms, the care for the wiggly kids during meetings, the well-tended parsonages, the kids that were kind to my kids, the questions answered honestly, the tours, the prayers, the patience in the decision making process- grace, all grace.

Receiving patience and love
From those who hurt. The support of the friend who, through tears, says "You know I'll always be there for you even if you do have to leave. And if I'm crying it's just because I love you guys so much." Loving people that could move, or could get sick, or could die, it hurts. And when suffering comes, it's easy to want to close a heart and kill the love for one's own protection. And yet, some keep on loving through the tears. This too, is grace.

Nighttime wrestling matches
I've heard Dr. Kleinig mention “the spiritual gift of insomnia,” and I thought, “Ugh, what's that? I don't want it.” Well, I got it anyway: nighttime wrestling matches with God, or nighttime coping with the physical effects of stress on the body (like arthritis flares for me, bronchitis for him).  I'm still not quite able to see this as a gift, but I have come to appreciate the nights of blessed, peaceful sleep all that much more!

The learning process
This is a new experience for us and many others. It's hard to know that some people just do not understand the position we are in. It is a strange one! For example, my husband did not ask to be on any call list, but that this is possible of anyone who commits to being a pastor, at any time. Second, though we can say no, he is a called servant of the Church (the big one!) and is absolutely obligated to give any call serious consideration.  I always took comfort in the idea that “we could always say no,” and that's true from one angle, but if God's got other ideas, well, to whom else shall we go? 

Then, add in the kids...All aboard!  
If dad and I are going on a stomach-lurching priority-changing life-rearranging roller coaster ride, we figure we might as well bring the kids along and let God change them too... and watch together how he takes care of us, rearranges us, and provides for us.

Fast Friends
Meeting new people is usually awkward, and this cannot be helped. And yet, God can quickly connect his children in friendship. Even my kids got to experience this, and it was wonderful.

Parenting in the spotlight
Six kids, after driving in a van for a million hours, now asked to behave in a new place while adults talk to strangers. They will fail. What will you do then, mom and dad? Because the strangers are watching!  But the strangers were kind and understanding, so it wasn't as bad as it sounds, though of course there were plenty of arm squeezes and whispered lectures!  They are so tired of hearing “Just be quiet and stop touching each other while daddy finishes his meeting!”

Kid grief
My heart aches just thinking about this morning's conversation with my son. “Mom, I just want to stay home and stay in bed until daddy makes a decision.” He's worried about crying in front of his friends. “I just don't feel like I'll ever be happy, again.” “I try to give the question mark to God but it just keeps running back and finding me again.”  I truly wish I could join him in that bed.  God uphold us!

Big Discussions
We have had so many Big discussions about the Biggest things in life with our kids lately. We've talked about priorities, decision making, praying, trusting God, the hard things about waiting, the freedom we have to just BE sad when we need to (or worried or whatever,) the blessing of seeing God's gifts even within a trial.  There is much good, solid food to share mixed in with this bitter meal.

The roots matter
The day before we told the kids, I sent them off to school knowing it was their last day of “normal” before we unsettled their worlds. I said to my husband, “this experience makes me so grateful for your insistence on regular family devotions. There's no last-minute preparation for this kind of thing. Either the roots are there, or they aren't.”  in the crazy mix of tears and excitement of the past few days, the roots have held, and all of us have come to appreciate them more. The Words we say all the time, they are true, and it matters.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth
In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always.
Into You hands I commend myself, body and soul and all things...
those words become real in a hard but good way when you have to go to bed and that big heavy question mark is still on your heart.  

We're trying to function today with the big question mark heavy on our hearts, and it will be there for some time. But, God is faithful. We appreciate the support and prayers of our friends and family and church family!

And now, some actual snapshots from the journey...

The long, long journey!

PORT HOPE, MI



Eastpointe, MI









And finally, back to the home we've made home for the last seven years. 



Our help is in the name of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth
In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always.
Into You hands I commend myself, body and soul and all things...

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