040
 
 
“It can’t happen all at once” Abba said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because it wouldn’t be beautiful.”
 
 
_______
 
 

That’s what my Abba said to me as I cried on the floor.

I cried because I am now single and unmarried and it wasn’t my choice. I cried because it’s harder to remember BJ’s voice, the width of his shoulders, his laugh.

I cried because I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to live in Oregon. I don’t want to live with my parents.

I cried because I want BJ. I want babies. I want a job I love.

So I cried and cried and cried.

It’s in these moments I ask Abba why He just can’t take me up to be with him. I just want to be with Him and with him. I just want to be with them.

So I cried and cried and cried.

As I cry, I know that I trust my Abba. I know it will work out. I know it will. I trust it will.

I know in my guts, in my beating chest, with my intellect, with my soul, that God will redeem my life. That he will make something beautiful from the ashes. That he is up to something.

But I’m sick of waiting.

I want to SEE what you’re up to, Abba.

And I want it now.

I want to be loved again now and have the perfect job now and have all my babies now and buy a house and be happy and move forward and feel normal NOW.

Why can’t you give me that NOW, Abba? Why do I have to wait?

Why must I cry and grieve and scream and feel crushed and bowl over?

Why can’t I see my future NOW?

Why can’t my life be redeemed NOW?

Why can’t it happen all at once? Why can’t you just hand me over my happy life? I think I’ve been through enough.

And in my tears, in my anguish, between gasps for breath I heard

“It can’t happen all at once.”

Why not? I asked.

“Because it wouldn’t be beautiful.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The future is scary. The future is scary, scary, scary.

I make myself feel better by saying:

Andrea, the worst thing in the world has ALREADY happened to you. And you survived. You’re here. The future isn’t so scary. Your scariest future ALREADY happened. And you survived. You’re here.

So as I think about my future I teeter in between extreme trust and capital F Fear. I’m trying to trust more.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Who can argue with that?

So I try to trust.

The night BJ died I felt a calling to seminary.

In the weeks after I wrestled with it. I was terrified. I was unwilling. But I chose surrender.

I landed on enrolling in seminary full-time in Fall 2016.

(I said I’d never go to grad school. God works in mysterious ways.)

So 2016 was all taken care of but what about NOW? What about THIS year?

I landed on a sabbatical from life.

I thought I’d be traveling, writing, resting…

But God had other plans.

A few weeks ago, my mom mentioned a school being formed through their Oregon home church.

Two weeks ago I emailed them and said “Hey! Can I apply? I think I’d maybe like this.”

The next day I sent in an application.

The next week I went in for an interview.

Yesterday I got in.

Classes start in less than one week.

Isn’t God WEIRD?

(I don’t think God’s upset when I call him weird. I think he knows it’s my flawed, human way of saying GOD SURE THINKS OUT OF THAT BOX.)

Guys, I am going to school. On September 8. Next week.

So what can I tell you about this school?

Well first, you can find out more on the Westside School of Mission, Theology, and Worship website but basically it’s a one-year program that will teach me more about God. I like to think of it as the perfect primer for seminary. I’m going to be a part of the Theology Stream, so I will be studying the Bible intensely and academically. (Which I’ve NEVER done before.)

I’ve since realized it will be intense- more so than I imagined when I applied. School 4 days a week and then praxis on Sundays. But my thought all along was well if I get in… it might be a sign. And I thought that I can’t find out IF this is God’s will if I don’t even APPLY. So I applied. And I laid it all at God’s feet.

And then I got in.

And now I’m going.

And I’m terrified.

Pray for me?

I will essentially be a full time student for the next eleven months. This is NOT what I expected life to be. This is a lot on my plate. But God’s holding my plate, so I know I’ll be ok.

I’ll still be blogging. Still be grieving. Still be fumbling through life. But I have a Next Step.

Also, there is an opportunity to contribute to my tuition here, if you feel led. Now you’ve all ALREADY changed my life with your radical, generous donations, but if you feel called to give again, all contributions are 100% tax deductible and can be made here on Pure Charity.

No matter what, please keep reading. Please keep praying. Please follow my story and and pass along my blog to whoever you think might be encouraged by it.

Here’s to New Things and The Future.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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My First Sermon

Written for BJ’s Oregon Memorial Service, and shared aloud on Thursday, July 23:
 

I wrote a eulogy for BJ. It’s crazy that that’s a thing I had to do, and I hope you read it. But for some reason, I felt like I needed to say a new thing today. I felt like I needed to preach.

Preach is a very scary word for me. And calling this a sermon feels scary. For a long time I thought this was something women “couldn’t” do. But I have had my life turned upside down by the passionate voices of some very influential Christian women. And I’m grateful. I needed to see, to know that God cares about our calling and our gifts, and it goes beyond gender. And though the words sermon and preach feel so scary for me, I cannot deny I have this fire burning inside of me. And though I don’t quite understand it yet, I just know that I need to share God’s love. I believe that God is doing a New Thing. And that New Thing involves unleashing women on this planet. Unleashing us to women be Pastors and Leaders in the church. Unleashing us in this unbelievable, spicy, and exciting way. And I believe I am apart of it. In fact, a few year ago I was given a clear word; “Revival will come when the women gather.”

The night before BJ died, I felt a strong calling to ministry, to seminary. I just had this impression to go to seminary and in my drowsy, half-awakedness I was like, whatever God, I’ll do it. BJ died 8 hours later. It was only after his passing that I realized what I signed up for.

In the days after his passing, I felt even more strongly that ministry has something to do with what I was meant to do, in some capacity. To preach, to lead people, to share God’s love and power. I’m sad that it took BJ’s death to finally get me to stop ignoring God and stop ignoring this calling, but I know BJ would pass out with pride about all this. He was my biggest fan, and he knew better than anyone on this planet how I struggled with my identity, with what made me tick, with where and what God was calling me to do. But know I see a path, it’s muddy and scary and expensive, but it’s a path. And I know BJ is so proud of me that I am taking over his memorial service to preach my very first sermon. I know absolutely nothing would make him prouder.

So go easy on me, it’s my first, AND I’m a WOMAN.

Also, I wrote this a week and a half ago, and today I’m struggling to believe it. I don’t even want to share with you what I wrote, because it’s hard to believe it myself. So maybe I’m preaching to myself today. So I’m going to pretend this is something I want YOU to know, but I think all along this is something I needed to know. Here we go.

I watched the movie Wild two weeks ago. A true story. Cheryl Strayed, portrayed by Reese Witherspoon, goes on a three MONTH solo hike up the Pacific Crest Trail, right down the road from here. She had to hike because of death. Someone she knew died. Someone she loved so much, died. Her mom. It was her mother, she had died of cancer four year earlier. Now in the aftermath of her mother’s death, Cheryl had let her life completely fall apart. Completely fall to pieces, fall in RUINS when her mother died. She became so trapped in grief, so inescapably trapped in her grief that it led her to emptiness, endless sorrow and pain, drug addiction, sex addiction, she just let her life be ruined. She just lost herself entirely after her mother died. She became a shell of the person she used to be.

So my question is, do you know anyone like that? Have you met someone like Cheryl Strayed? Someone who has let someone’s death, or something else utterly tragic in their lives, absolutely ruin them?

I felt myself there yesterday. I feel myself wanting to go there today. It’s an easy place to go.

And we all know someone who’s let tragedy take them there. Let something like this absolutely destroy them.

So as I find myself going to that dark place. As I find myself wanting to let this ruin me, wanting this to be the end of MY life, the end of MY story, I try to think of BJ.

What would BJ want me to do? How would BJ want me to live?

It’s almost a question not even worth asking. Because we all know the answer.

BJ would want me to live with passion, with joy, with gratitude, with abandon. If I’m getting real honest with you all, BJ would want me to date  and get married and have children someday. He’d want me to declare the good news and live with passion and purpose and meaning and joy. He’d want me to live the most full, beautiful life I could imagine.

And in someways, it really is selfish of me to fall to bits, because if I really am thinking about BJ, and not myself, I would have to be strong, be soft, be loving, be trusting, so I could honor his memory.

And when I really think about it, I know it would absolutely blaspheme his memory to anything otherwise. To let his death destroy me. To let tragedy take me down a dark path, instead of a path flooded with light.

Also, when I really let myself think about it, I have to think, if I died, if I die tomorrow, what would I want all of you to do? How would I want YOU all to live? What would I want you to do, to say, to feel after I’m gone?

And though it’s hard to admit, it’s not even a question, I’d want you all to LIVE. I’d want you to dance, and to sing, and to be filled with joy. I would want you to take your life and live and love every single blessed second you get.

And if I believe that for myself, knowing BJ, I know with absolute certainty that that is what HE would want.

So as I was thinking about all of this, this thought came to me so clearly, and I need to stop forgetting it:

We let death beget death when we crumble when loved ones die.

We let death beget death.

We let death beget death when we become a shell of a person, and refuse to move forward in our lives with vigor.

When we go all Cheryl Strayed when someone dies, we are letting death beget more death.

We are letting something that is ALREADY sad, bring EVEN MORE SADNESS.
And that is a crime to our loved ones who have died.

We cannot allow this to happen, especially those of us who claim to love Jesus.

If we love God, if we believe in the Bible, in the gospel, and we let death beget more death? It’s wrong. It’s wrong because we know, as believers, the TRUTH about death.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:25-26

If we believe Jesus was who he said he was, if we truly believe in the power of the cross, we know the TRUTH about death. And we KNOW with certainty that death is NOT the final word.

If we believe in what Jesus did on the cross, if we believe in Heaven, in salvation, in the resurrection of the living God, we cannot believe that death is the end. We know that death isn’t the end. We KNOW that death is actually the beginning. And we know that death is not death, we know, in the backwards kingdom of God, we know that death is LIFE.

Do you not believe that?

Do you not believe that death is not the point of death?

Don’t you see that the point of death is LIFE?

It is ALL OVER the Gospel. Death is not death! For those who love Jesus, death is life!

Don’t you see that death should beget LIFE? LIFE not Death. We want LIFE to spring from death, not more death. Don’t you see that with the God we follow, death shall bring life?

So how dare we minimize God, and in some ways, how dare we grieve, with the glorious news that death is NOT the final answer.

Now it isn’t wrong to grieve, but I think it is only because we are finite humans that we can continue to grieve, because if we lived our lives knowing what death REALLY means for those who believe in Jesus, we would not grieve. We COULD not grieve. If we really could understand what God was up to, we would rejoice. We would sing praise.

And I am almost there, I am so close to joy. I get close, and then I get far, I get close, and then I get far. I feel far now, but I want to feel closer to joy. I WANT to believe all the things I’ve just said.

Since BJ’s death, I have never felt closer to God’s presence. I don’t feel it right now as strong. It ebbs and flows, but by His strength, I want to continually and daily choose to say NO the death.

I need to daily say NO to MORE death in my life. I need to work on saying YES to God and YES to life.

Because in my heart, I do NOT want to let BJ’s death beget more death. There is enough pain, sickness, sadness, and death in this world without me wallowing, I do not want add more to the pile.

So will you join me? Will you join in doing a NEW thing? A radical thing? A GOD sized thing? Will you ask God to give you HIS eyes when it comes to BJ’s death? Will you let him show you how he is doing a New Thing? It’s hard. It might seem impossible at times, but with God, no thing is impossible.

When we think of BJ, we think of how loving, joyful, likable, and friendly he was. WE think about how he loved God deeply. And we cry out “He was taken too soon!”

But I can’t help but think, just maybe, maybe in our finite, limited, human minds, that he got the better deal. That he GOT greatness. Think about it— right now, right this very second— he is looking into the face of the living, resurrected God. He can SEE the FACE of God. He has looked Jesus up and down, and worshipped at his feet! Who has time to mourn? Who can do anything but CELEBRATE that?

My friend emailed me a few days after BJ’s death about a dream he had. 
He dreamt he was sitting at a wooden table. He was sitting there alone when suddenly BJ appeared, looking like his normal BJ self, and then BJ started chatting away. Before my friend could get a handle on the fact that BJ was in front of him, BJ vanished. My friend said he felt terrible because he wanted to ask BJ questions but hadn’t asked them in time. But then BJ appeared again, and started chatting away again, just relaxed in conversation. My friend didn’t want BJ to vanish again before he had gotten the chance to ask him his question, so he cut in: “BJ, have you seen Jesus? Have you met Jesus?” BJ replied, “Yes. He is beautiful. At first I saw him and thought, ‘This guy looks a little sleepy,’ but then I saw him, and he is beautiful.”
I am SO grateful my friend told me that. What comfort it gave me. I just DIED at BJ saying Jesus looked sleepy! Can you imagine? I took it as this— BJ was so hopped up on life, so full of excitement and passion and vigor, that to him, Jesus, the Perfecter of Peace, who knows know stress, no anger, only love and joy- seemed SLEEPY to him, in BJ’s excitedness and newbie status in Heaven, Jesus looked sleepy! But isn’t that amazing? BJ has SEEN JESUS. And don’t think I’m crazy. I believe this with every fiber of my very alive self. I have seen visions and signs and wonders of the Living God. I know he is real. And I know BJ has seen him.

ANYWAYS. I know many of us here claim to be Christians. And if you don’t, I’m sorry this was all very Jesus-y for you. But for those of us who claim God as our Savior, for those of us who truly believe in a God who conquers death, who TRULY believe in Heaven and Salvation and that BJ loved God— we can’t let this ruin us.

It is going to be so hard. For some us, maybe the hardest thing we will ever do. But if we loved BJ, we can continue to love him by moving forward. By finding joy. By pursuing our passion. And by pursuing God himself.

And by the way, Cheryl Strayed went on to do great things. She wrote a best selling memoir. She was able to heal her wounds of addiction and sadness and grief. She was able to move forward, and to love well. She did have to endure a grueling solo hike that involved blisters and rain and walking for over ninety days. So I am just trying to spare us all of a 90 day hike with this sermon. Spare us of the spiral downward, and help us all use this tragedy to help us spiral upwards, towards love, towards joy, towards friendship, towards peace, towards God.

It’s what BJ would want.

Don’t you believe it?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I can’t believe this is my life.

No BJ. No BJ ever again.

Everything I’ve known, everything I’ve ever wanted, was wrapped up in BJ.

Now he’s not here.

It’s so bad.

It’s getting worse.

It’s settling in again that he’s gone forever.

These past two months have been a vacation from cancer. But now I’m ready for it to be over. I’m ready for BJ to be back. I’m ready to be his wife again. I’ll take anything on. Stem cell transplants and chemo and transfusions and in vitro. I’ll take it all to have him back.

I just want him back so bad.

And life is hard.

Clients are starting to get annoyed.

Computers are breaking and his password logins are jumbling together.

There’s still so much to DO– taxes, emails, bank accounts, sorting, editing, clients.

It’s so hard. It’s unbearably hard. It’s so much WORK. AND he’s dead. He’s dead AND there’s so much work to do.

I can take work. I can take him being dead. But BOTH? It’s more than I can handle. I’m being crushed. Crushed under the weight of work to do. Crushed by the gravity of losing him forever.

Oh God, Oh Abba, why have you brought me to this place? I’m trying to trust you but everything is so Hard and Sad.

So hard.

So sad.

I need miracles in the form of strong internet connections and quick work sessions. I need miracles like money and a future and a lighter load. I need the miracle of help. Of peace. Of rest.

I’m trying so hard to trust you.

This is so hard.

I want BJ back.

I want it all back. That smelly city and that creaky apartment and those mean doctors- I want it back if it means I get him back.

I just want him back.

I’d give anything to have him back.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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On Day 3 after BJ died my mom and BJ’s mom, Shelley, came home from the grocery store.

BJ always joked about how whenever my mom or his mom would visit they would make DAILY trips to the grocery store around the block.

They liked to grocery shop.

He liked to be well-fed.

Well Mom and Shelley came back from one of their notorious grocery store trips.

You see, I had VERY specifically needed cinnamon-rolls-from-the-can so they had to stop in each neighborhood grocery store until they had found them.

When they returned I was feeling decent, sitting on the couch.

They came into the living room.

We all talked. And then we all laughed. I couldn’t believe how much laughing were doing.

(And I thought, BJ is getting A KICK at us all having fun together- his wife, his mom, and his mother-in-law!)

And as I thought that thought, Shelley said “We found your husband today!”

DAY 3, FOLKS. DAY 3.

My mom started giggling. And then they proceeded to do a dramatic retelling of how they encountered my future husband.

“Well, we were at Fine Fare. This was BEFORE we went to C-Town to get the cinnamon rolls because Fine Fare didn’t have them. ANYWAYS. We were leaving Fine Fare and we saw all the fruit bins displayed outside the store. And this woman brushed by and we could just TELL that something was going to fall and then this orange came tumbling down and then this man, without skipping a beat, swooped in and picked up the orange, placing it back where it fell from.”

“ANDREA! That is the man you need! It was so amazing. He saved the orange!”

“He was tall. And he saved that orange. That’s the kind of man you need! A man who rescues fallen oranges without skipping a beat!”

DAY 3.

DAY 3.

And it makes me smile still.

I needed the man who picked up oranges and I needed it to happen on Day 3.

And I needed it to come from Shelley.

It’s okay Andrea, I needed to hear.

You can love again.

Maybe not now.

But someday.

And it will be okay.

(And we will help you be on the lookout!)

I think it’s what I needed.

It was a gift.

So will I love again?

I sure do hope so.

I loved being married. I loved being a wife. I loved loving someone.

Must he pick up oranges?

To be determined.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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