Exactly three months ago I posted my last blog here at our online home. I have never spent that much time away from writing, but it became clear I needed some space as I pulled back from Facebook as well.
Many might wonder why the sudden break in routine occurred. Exhaustion is one answer, but it is not the truest and best response. Sometimes, when working through hard things, we need to pull inward, reflect without outside input, and listen for that unique inner voice that directs our path if only we choose not to ignore it.
Sometimes we just need to stop, look, and listen.
The past several months have been painful as we prayed over a decision we felt needed to make, but ached over as the answer became ever clearer. A growing awareness caused us to ask questions of ourselves that we really wished not to ask, but honesty and authenticity required it of us. Finally, it became obvious that we could avoid it no longer, that the time had come to admit what we so desperately didn't want to admit...we needed to leave our church.
For those who have left a church where you have been fed and nurtured for a long time, you know it can feel a bit like cutting your heart out. This place had been our home and extended family for many years, it had supported us through so much, and the people are dear to our hearts. After a church split almost four years ago, we were still filled with hope, actively involved, and desirous of new ways of being the church. Sometimes, the new ways of being end up being a poor fit, and that is what became apparent to us over time. This beloved body of people was moving in a direction that simply was no longer a fit for our family. There were a variety of reasons, which I will not go into here, but suffice it to say that the decision was unanimous in our family, and I was probably the last heel dragger hoping that miraculously something might shift.
I will never, ever forget the moment I was sitting on the couch, tears streaming, utterly heartbroken as I poured out how hard this was and how I just couldn't figure out what God wanted and it seemed as if the Spirit was growing ever quieter for me. 13 year old Josh reached over to grab my hand, looked at me with great intensity and said with a maturity well beyond his years, "Mom, this isn't good for any of us anymore. You have always helped us to see things clearly, and now it is our turn to help you. You have taught us to follow God and right now you are hurting too much to see things clearly, so it is our turn to lead you. Trust us now, we will always be there for each other and God is here for us no matter where we are...God isn't just in one place. We just need something different now, and that's OK."
Three very wise men. Really wise.
Two lovely ladies. Really lovely.
How do you leave behind those who know your story? Those who have carried you for so long but whose lives are very, very different than yours and your needs are not theirs? You do so as gently and quietly as you can, respecting that they are getting what they need, and with gratitude in your heart for the time well spent with them on your life's journey. You pray for them regularly, even if they don't understand.
Beginning anew is intimidating and scary, it truly is. However, we have taken tentative steps, and the positive changes in Dominick alone were swift and dramatic. It affirmed immediately that this wasn't frivolous or unnecessary. We have a wide range of theological perspectives in our family, something I actually relish, but which makes it a wee bit more difficult to find a single place where we can all find what we need that will fill us up. It may be that it is pieced together and that one single place can not meet all the needs we have as a family. As was pointed out to me, we have customized our lives in every possible way in terms of work and education, why would we not think that customizing our faith isn't the way to go? We are not a cookie cutter family, and so thinking of piecing our communal life together with a wider array of options might be the best thing, who knows?
So, we embark on a new journey, one of the heart and soul. You can't grab hold of the new unless you let go of the old, and so I am working on that. Safe isn't always best, I know that to be true, and God's timing isn't always ours. Is that enough platitudes for you? Acceptance of living in the moment, of being open to new experiences and encounters, and recognizing that God will meet us wherever we are are the keys for the next few months for me.
These are the heart things that overwhelmed me along with the challenges our kids have experienced these past several months. I couldn't speak of them, couldn't find words to write, and still struggle to express it all well, so I just stopped. I needed to breath, to live, and to listen. We live life in the deep end of the pool, I much prefer it there, but it asks more of us emotionally, it requires a level of authenticity and calling forward of truth that is very, very hard sometimes.
I wouldn't have it any other way, for this life we lead is a life of great meaning, of real relationship, and of honest assessment even when you don't like the eventual outcome. We won't hide from truths, we won't fake it, in fact, I don't think we even know how.
For 2017 I have many personal things to work on, but after 2016 I have decided I will reclaim joy! The world is filled with struggle and heartache, but also with beauty and kindness. There are gentle spirits everywhere we turn, there are acts of love and generosity that are never heralded as often as they should be. We live in a time of great promise and hope, not despair and anguish!
More importantly, we end up living in the world we choose to see.
Are there injustices to challenge? Yes. Are there outcomes we are concerned about? Sure. Are there people who are hurt, hungry, and homeless? Absolutely.
Is your life perfect? Nope...and Yup.
Perfect in that I am loved, perfect in that there will always be change, perfect in that I have the power to change even small things for others. God doesn't reside in a building or only in certain people, and half the fun is in finding God peeking from behind the unexpected person or peering over the fence in the unexpected place.
One other commitment I have made for 2017 is to return to blogging, for I realized with my hiatus that the blog is where my gratitude is expressed regularly, and I need that regular time of introspection to reconnect with my better self, and yes, to spew some of the hard things and relieve the tensions that build. We have surgeries ahead, unknown futures for five incredibly kind and thoughtful young adults, and limitations that will make discernment a far more interesting and intricate process.
And the family that God built will never be without the guidance of that Spirit which leads us where we need to be, as long as we keep seeking it.
Thank goodness for that.