December 16, 2016

Suffering produces.

It's another December post. Three years, with three different Decembers. There was 2014 spent working hard, waiting on the Lord and praying for a baby to be given to us. Then 2015 in the thick of loss of our life we were establishing in Illinois, also full of gain in the precious gift of a baby girl. All of this intensified as I began to fog and fight through postpartum depression/anxiety. And then there's now, 2016 a year of suffering-earned hope.

There's a verse in the Bible that quite honestly has felt frustrating for some time now. It was preached to me in the midst of another season of moving, trials, temptations and loneliness while I had transferred to a state university my sophomore year. The verse? Romans 5:3-5, which says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. I questioned why does the hope have to be after it all. Why not suffering, then next hope? That seemed easier to me, the quick way to feeling good again.

In 2014, I was waiting on the Lord. One thing I was waiting for was another opportunity to worship, with my local worship teams at a multi-campus mega like church. Waiting for the joy of being all mic-ed up and in a group, singing for the Lord and leading the congregation into worship.

But the Lord cared more how I would worship Him with nothing, and nearly no one, and sometimes while in the deepest of pits.

In 2015 and early 2016, I was begging the Lord to take away my pain, grief, and hopelessness. To take away the weight of depression and the tempting thoughts of death. Oh the weight of it. I pleaded with the Lord to take it away, only to be met with an outstretched arm and hand of mercy.

So I could wrestle over hope being the 3rd thing listed or I could be reached for by Him.

In high school we took a spiritual gifts test and it taught me that I knew the least of mercy (and money). You want to know what God's being growing me in this year, many years later? Yes, those two challenging for me things. Because:

God wants to produce. In our lives. For His glory.

If that comes through:
desert times
enormous losses
uncomfortable journeys
calls to wicked places
being an outsider
personal dark battles
attacks of all kinds

So be it.

His plan.

His ending of hope.


--Happy holidays with love and faith y'all,
Rachel



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December 31, 2015

Time to speak.

It's been a year {2015} since I've written. I was losing my words last December, losing my courage.

I could have never known what a year, what this year would bring. I hoped, prayed, painfully congratulated others while waiting for a baby. I hoped, prayed, angered and barely believed for a healthier ministry + family life. I made peace with living in an ever changing neighbor apartment, still while holding out for the dream of buying a home in downtown Arlington Heights. I held my breath. I wondered how God would care for us, month by month.

The positive pregnancy test brought us such joy. And fear, with how to provide. We were barely scraping by. Working so many hours, but it was so costly where we lived. I was so overjoyed that my family would be near this time, to experience all the firsts with this baby. To share it all.
And we didn't know how it'd work, but we knew I was called to be at home with the little ones. No more juggling outside work, figuring on what to do when little one spikes a fever, packing us up.

The friendships I prayed for years before were growing, I was becoming braver and more like me.

Then I got the call. My husband breaking and breaking news of job loss. The day before my job ended for the school year. In one month's time our whole life in IL wrapped up, packed up. Destination unknown. Wounded from ministry organization. Covered by the Lord, friends, and family. Pregnant & without home. Unable to nest. Next step, living at in-laws until an indefinite time.

Displaced. Reconnecting with MI family & friends. Being still. Michigan beaches. Whirlwind of job applications, interviews, waiting, waiting, waiting. Then a new calling. Provision. Welcomed in. A treasure of a church in a town where everyone seems to belong. Trying to figure out how to belong.

A home. A good, good surprise God had in store for us. Another pastor leaving para church ministry to do church pastoral work puts their house for sale. I call it the "dreamer" on our list. Actually it's not even on the list because I'm not sure if we can afford it. We buy it unseen. Risky, yes. When we see it, I don't ever want to leave it. It's beautiful. More waiting, waiting, waiting. We move in, it's ours. Downtown near a library and coffee shop. It's all an act of grace.

We live off an alley. Where young kids play unsupervised late into the day. Addicts walk up and down the streets all day long. My daughter looks out the window and I pray, Lord what do you have for us here. Things we could never see from beautiful Realtor pics. Things that feel too heavy & hard for now. But too familiar too from Youth works and the gospel. I try and remember what it takes to be a neighbor. To respect a community and to knock on neighbor's doors and to earn street credit and to love even when it's uncomfortable. Especially to then.

A year of silence and tears. And anger we're still sorting out. And/or forgiveness.

For months I comfort my daughter at bedtime when she cries and longs for her old home, her old "house". And I'm with her, that small apartment held memories this place doesn't have yet. She throws tables with all her displacement of home, friends, family, only childness, and I throw them too in my heart. She gets frustrated because she can't remember the names of new friends she meets, and I hear you sweet Julia. I can't remember either. But oh the hope that these faces will become dear.

We're doing our best at being brave {thank you Mums}. I have a necklace for you Julia, for when you're older and can understand more how proud we are of you.

And then you Ella Grace have been our hope. Our great expectation. For awhile there, there was no address ahead. No ministry site I knew of then other than loving you girls. You kept light going. And while it's hard being a new mommy, your snuggles, smiles, sweetness heal us all. We love you so.

We've all been changed by this year. I have seen a strength in you Nate that I did not know you had. To be kind, respectful, helpful to those who hurt you. To finish well. For you to persevere through job hunting. Which is seriously it's own job. And a half. You have been brave, over and over again. And now you're doing what you love again. With great leaders & fellow staff. It's a joy to see you do this. Thank you for the dream house. I promise next year God will make it more of a home for us here and I won't cry in it as much. It's really so beautiful. Thank you for fathering, late into many nights.

And Lord, thank you for faith. We literally, like in so many ways could not have done 2015 without you. You have held our broken hearts, our dreams, our gifts. You have led, delivered us, given to us. You have been Emmanuel to us.

Care for us in 2016 we pray. We know you will.


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