It’s all good

As I was noting in my reply to Jenell’s recent comment,  I really feel like "everything is (finally) coming together," for me and for our family. As of Thursday I have a job that will challenge me and require me to use my gifts. It’s meaninful work that pays reasonably well enough- just well enough, in fact, that Kirsten can cut down her hours to be with Samuel, which is something she longed for and so is something I hoped to be able to give her someday. Of course, I will miss him terribly, but I will only work harder to love and raise him all the more effectively. Likewise, we have finally found what seems to be the kind of faith community that we, and I especially, have yearned to give ourselves to. Morevoer, it’s just forming, and so we have the privilege to have "ownership" of it from the beginning. There quite simply is nothing like, nothing better, than being the Church with like-minded disciples, which, I hope, is simply to say that we were made to exist as part of a community that together is being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. Anyway, I am thrilled at all the possibilities. Speaking of community, we are also working at building it more intentionally with Karis and Tim, Kirsten’s sister and brother-in-law, so that we can better love and support one another. All of this is, very, very good.
 
And I am thankful.

Contentment

My son is upstairs taking a morning nap in his crib. I’ve learned that there’s a real art to laying down a sleeping baby without waking him up, at least with Samuel anyway. It’s kind of funny but I feel like I’ve really accomplished something when I’m successful at it. One of the challenges of it, admittedly, is simply that it’s hard to want to lay him down. As we were lounging on the couch after breakfast this morning, I knew he was tired and I was able to coax him to sleep. Once he was peacefully resting in my arms and as I gazed out the front windows with the sun shining outside, I was fully aware and attending to, in the moment, my knowledge of utter contentment. I could say without reservation that there was nothing- nothing– that I would rather be doing at the moment than holding my peacefully sleeping son and drinking fully of the deep reservoir of love that I knew just then- my overhwhelming love for him, his love for me, and the love of my heavenly Father that is the wellspring of it all.

Gain(?)-fully Employed

Well, the near six months of waiting is over. Yesterday I accepted a full-time Home Director position at the Blick Clinic. I’ll be in charge of one of their group homes for developmentally disabled adults. It’s truly meaningfully work, and the work will challenge me to really use my gifts for leadership, organization, administration, and relationshp building, and so I am glad for it. It’s the kind of position in which it will be hard to ever really leave the "office," what with endless paperwork, being "on call" basically at all times and so getting midnight phone calls, etc. Still, I am very glad. The pay is just enough that Kirsten will be able to cut back her hours a bit in order to have one of us there to care for Samuel most of the time. Our family financial "bottom line" will probably end with a slight net loss, but in the whole I’m believing it will be worth it. After all this time, of course I feel very hopeful. New beginnings, and having your gifts recognized as you are called to use them, are a good thing.
 
With plans still in the works to start school again soon, along with my aspirations to write and to be fully immersed and invested in a faith community even as I strive to give my all to the joys of marriage and parenting, I will soon find myself incredibly busy again, as is my wont. I pray that I am able to focus on doing a few of those most important things well (while recognizing what the most important things are) and that I will find peace, purpose, and rest in the midst of what I hope is all this well-doing.

I could use a bit of Sanctuary

I was very pleased last night to find, right here in Cuyahoga Falls, a new "emerging" church plant called Sanctuary.  As I wrote in my email to the pastor of this congregation after discovering their website:
 
"Since being here (in NE Ohio) I’ve looked long and hard for like-minded Jesus-followers with which to be the Church and build God’s kingdom. I had almost grown resigned to having to join a traditional church (especailly if I finally found employment in one, as my job search here has really been a struggle too), and then I came across your site tonight, and I find myself daring to HOPE again. After exploring your site a bit I feel a great affinity for the way you are working at "being the Church" (rather than "doing church"). In my 10 years in two emerging churches thus far, I have found God’s spirit in me saying "yes" to a few key things regarding what following Jesus is all about, and I hear echoes of those on your site. I agree that as image-bearers of God we are called to be innovative and creative in all we do- especially as we relate to those who haven’t yet embarked on the journey. Likewise, the life of faith is just that, a journey undertaken together with those who are also on the way. It’s a way of life/lifestyle. No one is "there yet." Truth-telling is vital to this way of life and includes the good, the bad, and everything in between. I love that in your values you recognize the primacy of people, of relationships, over programs and the "program-based church." I love too that like the first church, which engaged all the senses in worship, you embrace the arts and seek to synthesize past, present, and future as you do. I could go on, but you get the point.

Like you, perhaps, I’ve learned that "it"- the Christian life- is a massive, complicated struggle. Especially at House of Mercy I came to really agree that "doubt is not the enemy of faith, but its partner." It’s not that I doubt the existence of God or something like that (as this idea is too often reduced to by some Christians). Rather, I sometimes doubt God- I don’t trust Him- don’t believe that he can/will/has really "saved" me. I doubt that "it’s all going to be okay" in the end, that perfect love really casts out fear, that life conquers death, etc. Yet I find joy and reassurance in echoing the Biblical words, "I believe/ help my unbelief," and I find that living with this tension is but one of the many rich paradoxes of the Christian life. I also have embraced the notion that BECAUSE the journey is such a struggle, it can not and must not be undertaken alone. That is, when Jesus calls me to follow Him he brings me into a community of followers that is essential to the Christian life. I love that all those ‘you’s’ in the New Testament especially that tell us how to live this life are plural- they’re addressed to the community of faith. I’ve experienced cell groups to be the most effective, practical, and meaningful way to actually BE the Church we’re called to be- a church that exists for the sake of those yet to fully know God’s love."

 

Anyay, suffice it to say I am very pleased about the possibility for healing and a future with hope that this faith community represents.

 

While writing that email to the pastor above, my Dad called to tell me my 47-year-old sister, Lee, is in the hospital. She has long struggled with a variety of un- or incorrectly- diagnosed illnesses, and has struggled to manage all of this without any healthcare coverage. It has been very trying, to say the least. Finally yesterday an ER doctor began to run the necessary tests to put some of the pieces of the puzzle together, and so this is good. Still, we don’t quite have a prognosis yet, and cancer may or may not be involved; so there is more waiting yet to be done.

 

I’m also struggling interpersonally in a relationship with an acquaintance who is, to my view, exceedingly self-centered and either unable or unwilling to exhibit genuine empathy or understanding for anyone else. He/she has lived their life in such a way that those around this person are trained to protect their emotions at all costs, and as I see it this has resulted in severely stunted emotional growth and a lack of accountability for the impact one has on those around them. Knowing this, I recognize that I have the opportunity to still relate to them in a positive way, so long as I temper my expectations as to what they are capable of. Still, I find this challenging as it requires a good deal of emotional maturity from me…

The long-term value of a good pastor

I spoke recently with Debbie Blue, on of our pastors in MN for five years, and I am very glad that I did. She is wonderfully encouraging and even a bit prophetic, and she "gets" the gospel. Moreover, she knows us and our story- all that we’ve been through and all that we have to offer, and is specifically very encouraging along those lines. She’s in the process of writing another book, this one about how Christians make an idol of the Bible (which I am very excited to read), and I think that it was in part my conversation with her that inspired me to begin more proactively pursuing the writing life myself. After speaking with her, I was also inspired to more intentionally pursue a sense of community among those relationships that we do have here.
 
Tomorrow I go for a third(!) interview at the Blick Clinic for a Home Director position. It’s one full-time job that may actually work for our family right now and would permit Kirsten to cut back her hours a bit. I’m also waiting to hear back about my interview for a half-time Christian Ed. Director position. It sort of feels like the direction of my life hangs in the balance a bit. We’ll see.