A Year Later: On the Shore with a Towel Ready for You

This Easter, I read Jen Hatmaker’s post entitled My Saddest Good Friday in Memory . Her words broke my heart and I sat with them all weekend. I thought of her during a song at church on Easter Sunday and choked up.

First, and always first, I’m sad for Jen. This is her unique story. Yet, I could also relate to what she was describing in my own way.  A year ago, the following was my story, too:

“I’ll tell you a bit of how loss and grief and rejection will pulverize your heart and deliver you to Good Friday in pretty bad shape, or in any case, in the throes of recovery. ”

“Good Friday is about death – even a necessary death – and that makes more sense to me now than maybe ever. It speaks of a dark day and broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal.”

“I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us.”

My reasons for why I arrived at Good Friday 2016 in pretty bad shape are varied and unique. It was a perfect storm. Any one stress or hurt on their own wouldn’t have taken me down, but gradually, I began to sink. I clung to the following quote in those dark days:

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2015/2016: I’ll never fully understand why things happened the way they did. Some of it was part of life – my best dog dying of cancer, newborn sleep deprivation, and a natural disaster. I can’t say that all of it was God’s plan. God has given us free will. Some people know the path that leads to life and light and they choose the one that leads to destruction and darkness. Thankfully, while I don’t believe that all of my loss, stress, and pain were part of His plan; I know that God can work things together for good and that He’s in the business of resurrection.

“I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone. ” – Jen Hatmaker

A year ago, I was attempting to keep my head above water.  This Easter, I realized something. I’m no longer in the water but on the shore! On Easter Sunday, I got choked up for Jen instead of myself (when you’re in a dark place you’re rather near sighted). From the shore, I’m cheering on those who have experienced loss and grief and rejection. I’m here for you and I’m saying: “keep treading water! Your feet will touch ground again. It will. I’m here! I made it. You will too. Keep breathing. I have a towel ready for you.”

Love,
R.

5 reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017

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This blog was started in 2016. In addition to the blog; twitter, instagram, and a fb page were created. I gave them all a trial and will be keeping active on instagram & fb and hopefully write more in 2017 on this blog! It was mostly me (R) writing and posting in 2016…maybe D will join me more in 2017. One can dream 🙂

As I begin to briefly reflect on 2016, I will share the following. I recently read my FB Memories from years past re: my new years reflections. Year after year, I wrote something to the effect of the previous year having its share of really difficult moments & good ones. I guess the saying from Ecclesiastes is true: there’s nothing new under the sun. With that said, I’ll pause to reflect on 2016 and offer some hopes for 2017.

2016

2016 certainly had a theme of loss. While we felt peace about our decision to resign from our church, I mourned the loss of those relationships in 2016. We also said good-bye to our dog, Mowgli, and our cat, Storm in 2016. I miss them.

2016 had a theme of personal growth, too. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I realized something: I grew a lot this year in the areas of grace and forgiveness. In 2016, I purposed to “feel all the feels” as well as to let go. Being hurt but not growing bitter is hard work! This could be a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say, I’m entering 2017 feeling light and free.

2016 was a year of growth as a couple. We grew in emotional intimacy and spiritually. We prayed more together in 2016 than ever before.

2016 was the year that I grew closer to my co-workers than ever before. I don’t know why this is. I wonder if my heavy church commitments (being married to a pastor & serving in my own way(s) in the church), caused me to be “less available” when at work. I know that I used to use my breaks at work to do church related things (like update the church fb page, read a book for book club, etc). It could also be the fact that several co-workers have gone through super stressful times this year and it’s more natural for me to “show up” for that than to do small talk. For whatever reason, I’m thankful for new and deepening friendships outside of church walls in 2016.

2016 had us feeling tired & so happy as we watched out daughter grow from a baby to a toddler. We feel tremendously blessed that dad was able to stay home with our girl from summer 2016 onward.

2017

2017 will be the year that we plug into our new church. We visited over a dozen churches in our area in 2016. We are praying about where to put down roots. I am so looking forward to having a church family in 2017!

2017 may bring us closer to discerning what’s next for us in pastoral ministry. Or not. We’ll see! The key is to remain open to whatever comes next. And to also enjoy the season that we are in (we are enjoying it!).

2017 is a great time to do all the new years resolution type things: lose weight. eat healthier. purge items from home. work on projects. read more. travel. I would like all of these! But most of all, I desire to grow in relationship with others this year. Family, friends, co-workers, church goers, strangers, etc. To make time even when you think you don’t have any time.  If I spend more time with people, if I’m more present with people, if I’m more vulnerable with people, and if my “people time” decreases online and increases in other ways, 2017 will be a success.

Do you have reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017 that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear them! Truly.

Love,
– R.

Difficult December: Come thou long expected Jesus!

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December feels like a blur. In our household, at least one of us has been sick at any given time this month. And when you have a toddler who is sick – no one is sleeping. Suffice it to say, we are not ready for Christmas. And we are hosting Christmas at our house! Eek.(I have to stop and remind myself: the shopping, cooking, cleaning, card writing and even the gift giving is not what Christmas is ultimately about. To neglect to prepare MY HEART for the birth of the Christ child would be the biggest shame of all).

Besides feeling physically run down, my heart has felt heavy this month. I think of Aleppo. I think of the infant baby who was beat by his own father in Napanee (the child is on life support). I think of a family who lost their home and all their possessions in a fire. And I know several who are experiencing significant stress due to job loss at this time of year. My heart is heavy.

December has been a difficult month. A struggle. I haven’t been feeling very merry.  Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if the struggles of this month are providing me with a different perspective of this season. When I read the lyrics of Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, the words hit me in a new way.

Come thou long expected Jesus.
Born to set us FREE.
Free from fears and sins.
Release. We find our REST in thee.
You are the hope of all the earth!
The joy of every longing heart.

A longing fulfilled. The birth of our saviour! The one who provides freedom, rest and hope is Immanuel, God is with us.

Whether this month has been mostly happy or mostly difficult, let us make time to focus on the long expected Jesus.

Love,
R.

A new season: Pastor in Transition

6 years ago, we packed up all of our belongings and moved from the US to Canada. We moved to a small town that we never visited before the job interview at the church. To say that it was a step of faith is an understatement. More like a leap of faith. We left behind all that was familiar for the unfamiliar. We trusted that I’d eventually find a job. We said good-bye to good friends and family. We went knowing that staying wasn’t our next step. No, our next step was to go.

Now, after 6 years have passed by, we sense that our season at this church has come to an end. Truthfully, this conclusion took us both by surprise (and involved a lot of wrestling). We like longevity and thought we’d be here longer. But then I thought that I’d live in the States forever and here we are in Canada.

Sometimes we think that we’ll always do this or that…until we don’t. We can think that we’ll always live in a certain place, always work a certain job, always have certain friends, always think a certain way…til we no longer do. Thankfully, change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Often, the unexpected changes in life can produce in us new fruit.

Our recent church will always hold a special place in our hearts. We’ve loved, we’ve learned, we are better people now than we were 6 years ago. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Now a new season is upon us. It’s scary and exciting. It feels a bit like 6 yrs ago. Except this time, we have evidence to recall of God’s faithfulness. He was with us then. He’s still with us now.

Here’s to being in transition. Come what may.

When Mother’s Day gives Mixed Emotions

I didn’t always want to be a mom. In fact, I thought that I’d live happily childfree for all of my days. Around 5 years of marriage, I started to wonder if I’d regret not having a child. I thought of and pursued the possibility of building our family through adoption. That door closed. Then we tried for a baby and had a miscarriage. Mother’s Day 2014 was dark and sad. I didn’t know if we’d ever have a child.

Here I am now in 2016 with a 13-month old on Mother’s Day. Becoming a mother has changed me in a way that I didn’t imagine. I now feel certain things so deeply in my heart. In particular, my heart aches for all sorts of mothers on Mother’s Day. Especially today, I think of:

The woman who wants to be a mother

The one who has lost a child

The lady struggling with the demands of motherhood

The mother who has an estranged child

Those living without their mom

And this week, I think of all the mothers affected by the Fort McMurray fires. There have been women who’ve given birth during this past week while fleeing from their home.

I am glad to be a mom. It is seriously hard work. Challenging. Tiring. And the lovey-dovey stuff too. But one thing I’m grateful for is the way in which my journey of motherhood has given me a deep love for any struggling momma. I’m feeling both sad and glad this Mother’s Day, and I think that’s okay.

Pastor’s Wife resume: reflections on the last 5 yrs & a heart stirring

While making a veggie dish for book club tonight, I began thinking of my role as a Pastor’s wife. Growing up, most wives of the Pastor tended to serve on the music team (played piano to be exact). While I took piano as a child, I’m not in any shape to play publicly (unless you want to hear a right-hand-only simple music piece, ha!). When I think of pastor wives that I knew growing up, I’ve often felt different. What I’ve recently started telling myself is that maybe this is OK. Maybe how we each serve as Pastor’s Wives is not better or worse, just different.

On that note, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve served over the last 5 years at our church. During this time, my primarily focus has been identifying gaps and filling them. Basically, I like to start things that no one else is doing and then hand them over to others! Here are some examples of things that I’ve started from scratch over the last 5 years:

  1. A Youth Group (that now has other leaders in place)
  2. A Church Softball Team (I didn’t play but organized it to make it happen)
  3. An Adult Sunday School group (that continues to meet)
  4. A monthly social group for young adults (this group has had various leaders over the last couple of years)
  5. Filled in as Nursery Co-ordinator (there’s now a new leader in place, yay!)
  6. Book Club (the group carried on when I took a break from reading books after we welcomed a newborn to our home)
  7. Community Outreach (there’s several passionate leaders now part of this small group).
  8. A College & Careers small group.

I absolutely love filling the gap & then having someone else take over. When someone else is able to take over leadership then it gives me more time to do something else. I also LOVE to figure out what someone is gifted in/passionate about and help to plug them into meaningful service. That gives me great joy.

I guess in a way, I like being an entrepreneur. In regards to entrepreneurship, lately, there’s been a new stirring in my heart to combine my skills & experiences as a social worker in church ministry. More specifically, I’ve thought of maybe doing public speaking/training on specific topics. Some examples might be: Assertiveness Training (can include conflict resolution + boundaries), Social Justice, Marriage, Financial Freedom, How to talk to your kids about sex, etc. etc. We’ll see! I am returning to full-time work in April. But my heart is definitely bent towards creating teaching topics that may help spur people on towards health. And the hope would be that non-church folk may be interested in a teaching topic as well!

We’ll see what 2016 has in store. First and foremost, I hope that I grow in my relationship with God and that I love others better. In the end, that’s all that matters.  And we’ll see if I can take baby steps towards this new heart stirring. If you’re married to a pastor and reading this, please remember that how we each serve in the church is not better or worse, just different.  You are amazing at being you.