Two years of Sundays

Two years ago when we moved to Austin, we had to find a church.  I don’t mean that in the sense of, “It’s the right thing to do” but rather, we had to find a church.  As in, “our lives depended on it”.  It felt desperate. And guess what, desperate hearts find God.

When you uproot your life, there is this feeling of excitement and opportunity but there is also a very real sense of being untethered. Flailing.

God is my anchor.  And hearing His Word and being around His people is what I needed.  My family needed that too but of course, they sent me out to find the church.  You do the work they were saying in essence, we will show up when you have it all figured out.

I was “alone” when I first heard our pastor speak.  The room was packed but I didn’t know a soul.  This was not a space I’m used to occupying.  I’ve spent years crafting community and placing emphasis on connecting and building relationships.  That is where I thrive.  It’s strange for me to walk into a building filled with hundreds of people and not know a name. Worse yet for me, no one knew mine.

The Pastor spoke and I just knew it.  Sitting with goosebumps and a lump in my throat, I whispered “Thank you”. See, God had led me to this church and this pastor and this moment.  Aloneness and all.  Loss of identity and all.  He wanted to make the Gospel the thing.  He wanted to make JESUS the thing.  Not my outfit or my friends or my kids or my husband or my ministry or my neighbors.  Just me and the Word of God being preached like I’ve never heard.  This guy was wearing jeans and he was my age and he was married and had kids and his Southern accent was both comforting and a reminder of how far away I was from home. But what he was saying reminded me that I am always home in the Lord.  Where I go, He goes.  When I am desperate, He will show up.  When I am lost, He is the way.

I had heard about this pastor and his way of preaching truth that in no way is watered down.  I had heard he “brings it”. And I knew that’s what I wanted.  What I needed.  I was seeking a strong word. A bold declaration.

I believe we are all looking for people to tell us the truth.  I think the truth has been watered down and we are afraid to speak into people’s lives because we don’t want to seem harsh or preachy but we are all secretly hoping for someone to have the courage to speak the truth with confidence and courage and conviction. Speaking truth is real love.

The next week I took my family and again, was blown away.  He was preaching from the Old Testament and he had maps up on the screen and was diving into geography and history and I actually had to laugh.  He was speaking directly to my husband and son who want facts and love to know the history of things.  The second week we went as a family, he preached the Gospel, straight up. He didn’t mince words, he didn’t flinch or apologize.  I cried like a baby.  Right there, I thought, THANK YOU GOD for this man who is PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO MY FAMILY.  I went up to him afterwards and thanked him profusely, blubbering and carrying on.  He smiled and warmly shook my hand and welcomed me and my family.  I’m so grateful he said YES! to the call on his life.

We’ve been there two years and I can’t help but think those two years were exactly placed on purpose as the two years before my daughter leaves for college.  The Lord’s timing is always perfect. As we sat in church this morning, I realized it was our last Sunday before she goes to college.  We were all there together.  We would be again on  holidays and vacations but not every Sunday anymore.  I was grateful for the rhythm of Sundays, the predictability, all of us together, lunch afterwards.   I will miss this, I thought. I will miss her.

There are so many things we do as parents to prepare children for college.  Many have to do with academics and manners and common sense stuff and personal hygiene issues. Honestly, I’m still telling my teenagers to brush their teeth.  We try to teach kindness and respect and decency and compassion and empathy and independence.  We tell them we love them and we tell them all the things our parents told us.  I spent some time yesterday explaining how to do laundry and how important it is to separate darks from lights.  (I still mess this up sometimes!)

I’ve always known that my most important role is to teach them about God and how much He loves them.  To teach them about Jesus and His sacrifice and His gift of grace.  Sure, I told them about God and I took them to church all their lives, but these last two years…we have lived like we believe it.  The church is a big part and the pastor is instrumental in teaching us the Word of God and how to apply it.

However, I would have to say, it has been in the undoing that we have most profoundly met the Lord.  It has been in the flailing.  It has been in the many, many times over the last two years when we had to each individually walk into a room knowing not a soul and know we would be okay.  It is in the times we did it afraid, whatever it was.  It has been in the practice of trusting…the practice of believing…the practice of leaning into God…that we can now truly understand.

Faith doesn’t grow in comfort zones.

I heard Christine Caine talk about how in today’s world everyone wants everything to happen quickly, like selfies on Snapchat or Instagram.  But God moves at His own pace, His process is more like old school photography.  He takes time to develop us and a lot of our developing happens in the dark.

Two years ago we were invited into the darkroom.  We were invited out of our comfort zone.  We were invited into a new thing.  We said yes and it changed everything.

Now my daughter is invited into a new thing.  A new dark room.  A new stage of development.

And I’m invited into one as well but for the first time, we will not be in the same dark room.  We go into our development alone and when we see each other again, we will be changed.  A little more of us will be revealed.

I am not afraid to let her go.  She has heard the Gospel and she has spent two years of Sundays sitting near her mother who sings off key with hands raised in praise for the way the Lord will always, always lead us Home.  No matter where we are.

 

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©2016 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved

Nothing Good Gets Away

steinbeck

 

I just discovered this letter. It took my breath away. I had to share.

John Steinbeck wrote it to his son.  His son was at boarding school and had written to his father to tell him he was falling in love.

This is so beautiful and tender and true.

It brings tears to my eyes because I had a father that wrote letters to me.  My dad wrote me once a week when I was in college…his beautiful handwriting on thick paper folded neatly into a matching envelope.  Always addressed, “Dearest Susan” and always ending with, “Love, Your Father”. He was gentle and kind. I miss him.  I’m so grateful he was mine.

All of this has me thinking about the things we tell our kids.  The advice we give and the way we shape their views through our responses.  Oh Lord I pray for the right words to tell my kids. I hope that I have offered (and will offer!) words that will give hope and encourage.

Here’s the letter.  Enjoy.

New York

November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind.
The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable.

The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

I know. Take a moment. Reread. NOTHING GOOD GETS AWAY.

I’d love to read your comments. What advice did your parents give you that encouraged you?

©2016 Sue Bidstrup, All Rights Reserved, Great Big Yes™

Stay.

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Ok just finished a book all in one day. The beginning few chapters were hilarious! About halfway through I realized I don’t have much in common at all with this writer.  I was intrigued at times and sometimes  bored.  Many of our beliefs differ. I found her shrill at times which is the title of the book so, duh. But she kept me laughing. Interspersed with very serious topics, her humor reared its head and I remembered that we have that in common. Funny breaks down barriers. I stuck with it and learned some things.

Three chapters in I posted a picture of her book on my Instagram page and I tagged her. I was giddy with excitement about a book that had me snorting and cry/laughing/cackling. Then I imagined her seeing the tag and reading my post. She doesn’t believe in God and I have this image of her looking at my page, rolling her eyes and dismissing me. I know I shouldn’t assume but let’s be honest, I almost did the same to her.

I realize that I have in the past turned off shows or stopped reading books or dismissed whole entire people because I can’t relate or I don’t agree. But then nothing changes. I think a lot of us are doing this. Sitting in our corner with our fists raised and our mouthpiece in. It’s people on both sides of every issue. We are getting advice from the people on our “team”,  whispering in our ear and pumping us up for the next round in the boxing ring. Gross. I don’t want to participate in that.

I have a new vision of the ring. Two women in the middle.  They’ve never met before.  Let’s say it’s me and you. Sitting on the ground. Truth telling. Without censor. Laughing and sharing stories. Listening. Witnessing. Seeing each other. Allowing disagreements and different points of view to just sit there and hold space. Safe. Not needing to be fixed or changed. Just hanging out there with us among the laughing and the tears and the awkward silences. All the history and experience and suffering and joy. All of the stories of love and loss. The challenges and choices and education and mistakes and spirituality and baggage and fears and wisdom just swirling there around us grounding us in truth. Because it’s all true.

My story is no less true than yours and your opinion is no less weighty than mine. Neither of us is disqualified.

I will keep listening. Even when I want to run and hide in my corner with my people because it feels safer there. Even if your words shock me or my stories make you cry. Even when you are uncomfortable and want to run or I am judgmental and tempted to give advice. Let’s not.

I picture us making it through all the rounds. No knock out attempt. Just two women holding each other’s arms up in the end. Endurance athletes.

Fighters.

Warriors.

Champions.

©2016 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved