Friday, December 19, 2008

Not entirely in...

I have to admit that I have my ups and downs in re-entering life here in the USA. We weren't in Jerusalem that long, but in order to go, we had to make some drastic choices that aren't so easy to shake now that we are back home. In order to go to Israel, I had to say that following God is my first choice. I had to decide that I value my belongings little enough that I can live out of ten suitcases for 9 months. I had to decide that I can follow Christ and celebrate his life in mine without all the cultural trappings that living in a "Christian country" provides for me. I had to be okay walking in crowds of people who cared little about who I was and in some cases would rather I was not there.

Now that we have been home for awhile I find that I am able to live on very little. Now that I have my beloved Target always available to me, I don't feel the need to go as often as I used to. I don't feel a need to be perpetually busy or to keep my kids perpetually busy. For me to have good quality time with a few people who truly love me is what really matters. Somehow the Christmas season is nearly at it's end and today was the first day I was out shopping (with someone else's money I might add!). There has been a mad rush of people around me but I might as well be in Jerusalem again - watching people rush to prepare for Hannukah or Pesach, while I relax in my own little world, unaffected by the frenzy. Last year our family willingly became a group of "floaters" without any real tie to the activities around us, and in some ways that is how I feel still.

When I left this county I was in the cultural Christian mainstream, busy with lots of church activities. Christmas was a time of party after banquet after staff lunch after bible study breakfast. Lots of tables to decorate and gifts to purchase. I have returned to the area with a missionary mindset. I have had many meaningful conversations with neighbors and parents at my kids school, have spent a lot of time in prayer and in questioning God's purpose for me here. But the only Christmas event I have been a part of was 30 kids and parents crammed in our backyard decorating gingerbread houses. Don't get me wrong, I loved being a part of all the parties and rushing from thing to thing. But now that I have experienced another kind of Christmas, I wonder if I can ever do it the old way again. I will be interested to see how our family of "floaters" settles back in. Right now I still feel that I am on the outside looking in - I think that can be a good thing though and now that Christmas is near I know it is. Pulling out of the fray has given me opportunity to really think about the reason behind our celebrations. It was easy to do last year in Bethlehem, but God has made it possible again for us this year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chapter 1

The other day I was talking to a friend about all the books that I read. I really do love a good book and have since I was a little girl. Much to my husbands dismay, I am a person who reads the last chapter of the book right about the same time I read the first chapter. Some might argue that this would take the suspense and the joy out of reading the book but I beg to differ. If I dont know the ending, I am usually concerned that something unexpected and horrible will happen to a character that I like. I worry that I will start to care for a particular character, or begin to relax and enjoy the book and then out of left field a conflict arises. If I know the ending of the story in advance, I am a much happier reader and can savor the story slowly, knowing where it will all wind up. As a psych major in college and a shameless analyzer I have spent plenty of time trying to figure out the deeper significance of my need to know the ending. But that is not what this blog is about.

One thing I have found in many books (though not all of course) is that by the last chapter, a lot has been resolved. If it is an autobiography, typically that means that the person is famous or successful enough to warrant an autobiography. So no matter how awful their lives are at the first chapter or in the middle of the book, by the end they are successful and famous. The same goes for books about new church "movements" or radical christian living. No matter how ridiculous the endeavor, or radical the calling of God, by the end it is clear that this "worked" and the church, or the movement succeeded. I rarely read a non-fiction book by someone who is still in the middle of the conflict. I can read along and go with them through the rough patches and no matter what is going on I think "well this is Brother Andrew" or "this is Mother Theresa" or "wow Billy Graham sure struggled!"

I guess my point is this. This blog is not my autobiography exactly, but it is the candid expression of my thoughts on life and God's calling on me. God is still working on the book of my life and although some chapters make a lot of sense and finish with a nice conclusion, others leave me scratching my head and wondering how things will end up. Right now in particular, Ryan and I feel called to do "missional church" which is much less institutional church and much more missionary living in our community. We truly feel God has called us to attempt to follow Him with the same passion that we did when we were college kids and young believers. Only this time we have three kids, a dog and a mortgage. We feel a stirring in our hearts to seek Christ first and to actually let Him take care of the rest. It sounds a bit "hippie" and strange (even to me) but often we give the idea of seeking God above all else lip service in church but we don't actually do it.

The result of this calling is that Ryan is now currently working three jobs and we are trying to walk with other believers in the difficult ways of Jesus. We are doing this in Orange County, California where on first impression it looks like a lot of beautiful people who are busy and want church to fill their needs but don't actually have any needs. Of course I know this is not true but this is the sense that I get some days and especially on days I feel that God is calling us to do the impossible as well as the unpopular and unappealing. I cannot read the final chapter of this story and I cannot tell it to you. I cannot tell you that although it started off impossible, God worked in amazing ways and now there are groups of "missional" believers in every corner of California and the world. I cannot tell you that every day "many are being added to our number." So we will see. In the following weeks I will write my thoughts and even go back to the past to look at how we got here in the first place. For now I am a pastor's wife and will write on what that has been like the past 12 years to now and perhaps this blog can serve as a reminder that a pastor's wife is human and wrestles with life along with the best (or worst) of them. Of course for all I know one day I will cease to be a "pastor's wife" but for now that is what I am. Hopefully this blog can be an encouragement to others on similar journeys and who haven't figured out why God is calling them to do what they are doing.

I don't particularly enjoy life at Chapter 1 when I don't know how things end up. I am learning though to trust that the Author of all things has His conclusion in mind. It is His job to write, and mine to flow where His pen takes me!