Nope, this is not a reflection on the sad state that is our gravel road.
Ahem, I'm looking at you, Knox County.
No, today I'm staring at my Facebook Events invitations and not wanting to respond "yes" to one in particular.
It's our pastor's last day tomorrow, and there's a "celebration" for him.
I'm not in a super celebratory mood about this. I have been a card carrying Methodist all of my life. Pastors come and pastors go, but this move is one of the hardest.
There are few people who have truly challenged and touched my life in a spiritual manner.
Pastor Dave, my childhood minister, loved me and my family like, well, family.
Roger Ross led me back to a faith I had forgotten how to practice in a time when I needed it the most, grounding our early marriage in a truth and a love that can be bent but not broken.
Pastor Mark welcomed us to a community when we felt like we had made a HUGE mistake moving to, allowing us to lead and grow in ways that we thought were not possible in a tiny church.
And then came Brad.
We were nervous that first Sunday. We were certain the growth in our church was surely going to be stunted because of YET ANOTHER changing of the pastoral guard.
Little did I know, God had a huge plan for us when we were given Brad and Debbie as our new leaders.
I feel like an Israelite! Will I ever learn that God's plan is not necessarily the easiest and/or the most simple?
The energy that was included in that first service in which Brad preached was palpable. He spoke without NOTES. He used a booming voice. We were going to be rocked, and it wasn't because of a new set of musical selections.
This was the summer before Karma, Joe's mom, died. She was very, very sick, and while we know all of our time on this earth is limited, hers was short. Pastor Brad challenged Joe and me to co-lead Disciple Bible Study starting that fall. I remember saying yes because I knew I was equipped to teach, but where we were with Karma's illness and a growing uneasiness in our farming situation was causing my mind great angst. What I didn't realize, and I'm sure Brad couldn't predict either was that teaching this class was timed perfectly during an imperfect time in our life.
When Karma died, Pastor Brad and Debbie drove all the way to the visitation. He showed up.
When our twins were born early and we were tired and worn out and the babies were teeny tiny. he showed up at the NICU.
When Grandma Mary died, and before she did, he showed up.
This is the thing about Brad. He shows up. Even when it's hard to get there. Even when it's the worst timing for him or for you or for whatever, he shows up.
As I sit here typing this and wiping away tears, I am realizing Brad's timing at Elmwood United Methodist seemed strange at first. We loved Pastor Mark, so why would we need another minister?Looking back on these three years, I am realizing that they have been our family's hardest: Karma's death, our farming journey changed, our twins. Here's what's been constant: our faith. And I tell you honestly, it has been tested. It has been bent. We have wondered why in the world our world was being shaken to the magnitude where I couldn't get my bearings. But each Sunday and the days in between, Brad's teaching and guiding and example have allowed Joe and me to feel loved and welcomed and celebrated and challenged and understood when we didn't feel any of those.
I am not happy about this transition. I will admit that there are times when I wonder if I can do this pastoral transition AGAIN. However, as written in the the first line first book we studied as small group leaders, The Purpose Driven Life (thanks, Roger!), "This is not about me." Nothing is permanent. Super glue loses its strength. Sadness can morph into happiness. Leaders can follow. New opportunities are soon old. New shoes get scuffed.
I will get over the sting of "celebrating" Pastor Brad and Debbie's move, but the mark they have made on our family will not be easily removed.
Thank you, Pastor Brad and Debbie for stretching our faith and leading us to be rooted in the love that only can be felt by believing in something bigger than yourself.
We know that all things work together for the good of whose who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV
^^^That version is for you, Debbie!!