5 Things that Made My Heart Sing During COVID19

As we start our seventh week of sheltering-in-place we’re still adjusting to new combinations of stillness and stress. And we’re still learning to balance uncertainty with hope. Here’s a few things stirring up hope in my life.

01.

Kate Bowler’s “A Rhythm for an Uncertain Week” is timely and encouraging.

02.

I’m loving the song Island by Audrey Assad. I’ve also really been enjoying Bifrost Art’s album, Lamentations: Simple Songs of Lament and Hope Vol. 1.

03.

I tried a new bread recipe in my Dutch oven a couple weeks ago. (Is it just me or is everyone making their own bread now!?) The first loaf was delicious. I cut it up and served it with this. I recently made another loaf and added some honey.

I also made these yeast-free cinnamon rolls for our quiet Easter morning and yes, they were the best.

04.

I finished Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved. It’s his letter to a friend explaining Christian spiritual life to a secular audience. With warmth and compassion, Nouwen invites the reader to live in their true identity, Beloved.

“To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice. Our minds have great difficulty in coming to grips with such a reality. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Perhaps it is only our hearts that can accomplish this. Every time we hear about ‘chosen people’, ‘chosen talents’, or ‘chosen friends’, we almost automatically start thinking about elites and find ourselves not far from feelings of jealousy, anger, or resentment. Not seldom has the perception of others as being chosen led to aggression, violence, and war.”

— Henri Nouwen

05.

Walks or bike rides with Aaron have been good reminders of beauty. We walk around the neighborhood or nearby trails, and sometimes skip the walk and take a scenic drive instead. In the past couple weeks we’ve explored Walden Pond and the trails in Minute Man National Historic Park.

Where have you noticed beauty or hope around you?

I Will Rejoice

It’s been a little over a week since Aaron left for bootcamp at Fort Jackson, SC.

“It’s different.” This is my usual reply after someone has asked me how I’m doing these days. Different doesn’t even really begin to describe all the aches I feel, but it’s a start.  With Aaron gone for a while, I get to explore what it looks like to live on my own. This is new territory for me as I’ve always had a roommate or lived at home.

I’ve felt unbothered in some moments, and more vulnerable in others. Even the simplest of tasks feel new. Some are more physically demanding than others, like carrying groceries up our two flights of stairs (I’m determined to only make one trip…), and some are emotionally draining, like waiting for a letter.

I’m reminded, especially in this holiday season, today is just as much a gift from the Lord as the last day Aaron was at home. My mailbox is empty and yet I know God is so good. He has been a constant strength; His faithfulness brings peace to my tired mind. I’ve practiced saying Psalm 118:24 as I get ready in the morning. It doesn’t make his absence any nicer, but it redirects my heart.

“This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I’m looking forward to my parents visiting, finishing the semester, and of course seeing Aaron during Christmas break! No big plans for our time together, unless you count the all the Christmas treats we’ll eat. I’m sure he’ll want to catch up on some Netflix, too.

If you think of Aaron these days, say a prayer for him. And me. This is will not be our easiest chapter, but I believe it will be one of the most rewarding.

Have you been separated from your spouse for an extended amount of time? Is your spouse/sibling/friend in the military? What encouraged you?

 

Beginning Again

October has kept us on the edge of our seats. (Trying not to use the “busy” excuse?)

As of this month, Aaron has enlisted in the United States Army National Guard. He’ll be leaving for bootcamp on November 13th. He’ll be training in South Carolina and Georgia until early June 2018. Fortunately, he’ll get to come home for Christmas! After this chunk of training his commitment is only a weekend a month on base, as it’s the National Guard. This will allow him, by God’s grace, to continue his education to eventually go active duty as a chaplain in the future.

If you’ve kept track, this is the second time Aaron has enlisted in the National Guard and tried to go to bootcamp. The first time, this time last year, his request was denied. He needed to be home. The Lord knew that well. Isn’t funny how He uses (seemingly) bad news to help us? That season of our lives was full of blessings in disguise. What we at one point considered dead and gone, the Lord was not finished with!

I will stay behind in Massachusetts and continue to work and go to class. I’m not excited to say goodbye, but I’m so happy to watch Aaron pursue one of his biggest dreams. (Also, I was sad to see the beard go, but isn’t he handsome!?)

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I wasn’t able to go with him to see him swear in, but his recruiter was gracious and took some pictures.

I would have liked to show you a little timeline of photos. But I haven’t yet scanned all the pictures taken over the years of Aaron in various military uniforms. (Yes, we are major fans of disposable film cameras.) Even in college Aaron would graciously allow me to support him. Whether it was taking me to the Air Force ROTC Dining Out in 2013 or sending me letters with pictures of a new uniform – we’ve come a long way. I’m very proud of him.

All that to say, we are savoring these last couple of weeks of “normal”. The next six to eight months will be new and undoubtedly challenging, but life goes on and we’ll adjust. It’s looking like he’ll be in tech school near Savannah, Georgia – so if you have any suggestions as to what to see and eat, let me know! I’m going to try to visit.

We are so thankful for your prayers. God keeps proving Himself faithful and powerful. As I’ve said recently (and will continue to say!) – these are truly the best days.

 

A Little September Update

It’s the third week of our journey into seminary.

Aaron and I have been enjoying cooler morning accompanied by the first yellows and oranges of fall and a lovely fog that reminds me of a fairy tale story. Thank God we live in the northeast for seasons like autumn! We’ve biked around our little town and set out to go the fair soon.

The Lord has answered our prayers in so many ways this month. Aaron scored an amazing job near our church, where I continue to work at the creative and administrative director. We’ve also gained some wonderful new friends from around globe and continue to meet such cool people in classes and in our community on campus. Tuition is also paid for in full this semester thanks to the Partnership Program! (Your contributions and prayers have made the difference!) And last but not least, we’ve seen some significant movement with Aaron’s military proceedings.

I keep myself fairly busy with four classes (Old Testament Survey, Ethnic Identities & Reconciliation, Theology Survey I, and Evangelical Theology & World Religions), work, and spending time with Aaron and other friends. Aaron has been enjoying reading for leisure, working through his formation process, and has been gracious to do all the dishes.

This semester is off to a solid start with plenty to be grateful for. (Especially since I just caved and bought some of those Christmas-scented pinecones.) I won’t lie and say everything has been perfect, because quite honestly, it hasn’t and I’ve had a meltdown or two since starting school. So far in my life I’ve known myself to be an excellent student, an excellent single student. As a married student in graduate school full-time and working, I’m adjusting my expectations for myself and working on letting things go. It’s different, but these are some of the best days of our lives and we are doing our best to take advantage of all that’s in front of us at the moment.

We sincerely appreciate your prayers. Please continue keep us in mind these next few months. If you did not receive a September newsletter in your snail mail and you’d like one, please let me know. I would be delighted to send it to you.

 

 

Ask the Hard Questions

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia are a good example (and we can think of many, many more unfortunately…) of how a relatively small group of people with deeply held biases and beliefs can impact not only a community, but a nation. What you believe matters.

White supremacy groups are just a fraction of the thousands (millions?) of different belief systems in the world. Have you seen those funky “coexist” bumper stickers? Are we to tolerate such behavior as a means to “coexist”? Absolutely not. Their actions are hateful and their words are tremendously destructive. Such labels as “hate group” or “domestic terrorism” have been used to characterize these beliefs as wrong.

If there is a wrong, there must be a right. We can’t ALL be right, can we? Why does our society mourn the deaths of those killed in Charlottesville and Barcelona, but praise the doctors in Iceland for “eradicating” down syndrome through murder? (Not to mention the millions of lives lost through Planned Parenthood.) How do we get on the right side of history? Who holds the measuring stick and gets to judge the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts? What standards are we using to split the hairs of certain religious and radical groups?

What you believe will determine who you become and where you go. As an individual apart of a greater community, my beliefs will impact those around me. My beliefs will motivate me to a certain worldview, actions, and goals. So far, my beliefs have lead me to my marriage, seminary, and a job I love. More specifically, my beliefs have lead me to seek forgiveness, rest in Christ’s peace, and pursue truth.

The reason why I studied social justice during my undergrad and the reason why I will study religion, theology, and ethics in grad school are the same — I want to dedicate my life to helping people understand the consequences behind their (agnostic, polytheistic, atheistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, humanistic, etc.) beliefs and graciously lead them to Truth.

There is only one way to freedom — one way out of this mess we find ourselves buried in. The healing from the violence and confusion in our homes, our streets, our courts, our sanctuaries can only be found through trusting Jesus, the living Son of God. Of course, that sounds rather abstract and overwhelming if we’re looking for practical ways to help our cities heal. And I don’t really have a good answer for you. Our families, communities, and nations have different needs — so I’ll share a quote from Madeleine L’Engle that has encouraged me:

“We don’t have to know everything at once. We just do one thing at a time, as it is given us to do.”

When light is present, darkness has to leave. The same concept applies to truth. Truth will stand the test of time. Truth will survive your hard questions and awkward conversations. You’ll need to get vulnerable and you’ll need to surrender your lifelong assumptions in order to live in Truth. Once you commit to that, the rest will follow.

From my limited (privileged) perspective, I would say one last thing. If you believe in the Truth I would ask you to stand up for Truth. Have a conversation and ask those questions, make that phone call and ask for their forgiveness, change an old habit, stand and shout on the streets if you have to – whatever it may be, let it honor Christ and invite those in darkness to stand in the Light.

“learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17