Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dear Dad (One Month Later)

Dear Dad, 

Today is the one month mark since you’ve been gone. I have been attempting to prepare for this day for a whole week. Dreading it is the more appropriate word. When I woke up Thursday morning, having dreamt of you and feeling rested and relaxed, the world became a crushing weight as full consciousness reminded me you weren’t here. My grief over your death is still so fresh. It dwells at the surface. From here on out, to say that you’ve been gone for more than a month feels like I've lost some nearness to you.
I am still learning how to say goodbye to you. It’s a process; a lesson to learn. I figure you could have talked me through something like this with great wisdom had you still been here.

One month. 31 days that have lingered swiftly. Drudged on rapidly. Like they last forever, but are over too quickly. Not one of those days has gone by without thoughts of you. So many thoughts of you. 

One month ago I heard your voice for the last time. Weak as it was, I heard you, Dad. You love me. I carry that certain truth with me now and it brings me comfort. But oh, how I long to hear your voice again. To hear the jangle of the phone and answer it to find you on the other end. Most of the time 400 miles separated us, and the sound of your voice was the embodiment of your presence and influence in my life. Yes, I want to hear your voice.

I wish Minnie could have spent her 60th birthday in her classroom for a family party like you had planned, not in the funeral home making arrangements. She did really well though, Dad. She misses you something fierce, but she is taking one step at a time. 

I wish you could have experienced all the love being offered at your funeral visitation. Lines of students, parents, coworkers, life group members; all present to honor you. With tears in their eyes, they would recount stories of the difference you had made. Do you hear that, Dad? All the moments you spent questioning your investment and the trajectory of your life…it all mattered. I imagine you must have realized that fact in grand measure when you entered heaven, but it was a sight to see on earth too.

I wish you could have seen Paul. He fulfilled your request to officiate your funeral. You would have been so proud of him. I certainly was.

I wish you could see the way Justin is supporting his mom in her grief. He’s helping to make sure all the details of life are understood for Minnie.

I wish you could have heard my words at the funeral. It’s what you asked of me - to speak on the topic of reunion. Had it been up to me I would have stayed in the pew silent, but only you could have persuaded your ordained daughter to give the funeral sermon from the pulpit of a Southern Baptist church. Paul and I figure you would share an ironic laugh with us about that one.

I wish you could have been sitting at the funeral service when “Pancho and Lefty” began to play in Valley View’s sanctuary. I still don’t know why you wanted that song, but in a strange way it gave me strength in a hard moment. It was just so you and it was like a gift you gave us. Thanks for that.

I wish you could have hugged your grandkids in the moments when the grief has gotten to them over this last month. Alex was there, Dad. He helped Minnie pick out your tie, he sat in the background of the funeral not wanting to draw attention, but he was present. Eliana finished the book you gave her for Christmas and was able to whisper to you what she liked best, just like you wanted. Johanna buried her head in April’s side as she shed tears. Levi said he would sell all his Legos to have you back. Moriah sat with me at midnight and missed washing dishes with you. Sweet Brandyn stood at your casket saying he loved you. And “little” Mackenzie; she took it all in stride, keeping track of all that was happening. It would have made you smile.

I wish I could have kept you up to date on all that  has been happening with our family here in Flint. So many decisions, changes, transitions. You have always been one of my biggest fans - loving, supporting, and praying for me. I really need that right now.

I think to the future and all the coming moments that I will be missing you. Like next week when Eliana will turn 12 and there won’t be a call from you. Like next month when it will be one year since we explored Washington D.C. with you. I am forever grateful for those precious moments. Like the 17th of every month. Like the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without you. Like when I won’t need to buy you a 65th birthday present in January. Or maybe I will anyway. So many moments I will miss you, and I will cry, and I will learn a little more about to say goodbye.

Dad, I guess all of these words just boil down to one simple truth…I love you. It sounds so trite and so expected, but in all the world there are no better words to sum up everything else I feel. My life is better because of you. And I miss you terribly, and have been for a month. But nothing will ever change how much I love you. 

Always and forever, 
Your little girl

Friday, September 16, 2016

On Faith and Foolishness: Our Family's Next Steps

I suppose there is a fine line between faith and foolishness; between doing something risky and being plain stupid. Paul and I are walking that tightrope right now.

At the end of October, we will conclude over 18 years of ministry at West Court Street Church of God in Flint, MI. We have served in various roles over the years, but the most challenging and rewarding have been these last 2.5 years serving together as Co-Interim Pastors.

It is at West Court where we were loved into ministry. West Court is where we cut our pastoral teeth. Where “wet behind the ears” newlyweds became seasoned ministers. Among this congregation we have learned how to be married, we have both become ordained, we have become parents three times over, and we have shared some of the most important moments of our adult, married life.

But the time has come for us to step back and press the reset button on our lives. We have felt the leading to “circle the wagons”, as Shauna Niequist says, and put family on the front burner. The season has come for us to rest from such active and demanding ministry. 

We have poured our lives out, for the sake of the gospel, among this congregation. We love these people. We love this community. We love this city. Yet, we are looking to love ourselves and our family a little more than we have been able to do at a break-neck pace of life. We are desiring a time when our minds can be still to focus on a singular goal instead of spinning with the weight of many.

We have NO idea what’s next. Neither of us have a job yet. We will need to find a place to live. We are not seeking a new ministry position. We are waiting on God to show us the next step. Until that becomes clear, we are working on the assumption that we will stay in Flint, at least for the time being, using our connections and knowledge of the city we love in the hopes of landing somewhere we can continue to serve others and pay the bills. We are looking to find a house within the city limits so maybe our presence can be hope when so many are looking to leave.

But all of these are what-ifs. Uncertainties. Unknowns. Where this adventure ends up is yet to be seen. We are doing our best to trust God in this process. He’s always had our backs before and we don’t expect Him to stop now. If we are sure of anything in all this craziness it’s this…the God who led us to this place will be faithful to see us (and the congregation of West Court) through it.

If you are a praying sort, would you pray for our family and this body of people we love during this time of transition? If you are a networking sort, maybe you can point us to someone who might need a new hire. 

We are moving forward in faith, hoping we don’t trespass into foolishness. We are taking a risky step that might make us appear just plain stupid. Or maybe, God will show up in the middle of this mustard seed faith of ours and we will see mountains in our rear-view mirror (Matthew 17:20). 

Whatever the outcome, our family will walk it together. We’ll keep you posted. 

So much peace and hope to you today.