Friday, May 30, 2008

Looking back --- impact

I received an email from a wonderful woman today. It was a short note of friendship and prayer. This woman is extra special because she is the pastor's wife of our former church home, a beautiful compilation of God's family in a building called, Amazing Grace.

I've heard from, Mrs. Schaal several times over the years but for some reason her note today brought tears to my eyes. After thinking about it, the reason is quite simple....I miss her. I find myself looking back today. Normally I don't like to get caught up in that act but.......

We had made plans to leave Southern California years prior but the Lord didn't pave the way until June 2000. The job literally fell into Jeff's lap and the doors were flung wide open. From interview to moving truck, it was a 4 week process. We bought a house during that time as well. Controlled chaos.

We went from the crowded craziness of Orange County, CA to the quiet, mountain rimmed community of Twin Falls, ID - population: 35,000. We knew no one. Jeff, myself and girls were on a life-changing adventure. Little did we know what kind of adventure......... Perhaps the name of the town should have been a clue (Twin Falls)? The name of our new church should have served as another clue (Amazing Grace).

In California we were members of Saddleback Church, home of the author, Rick Warren. It is a large church with several weekend services. If I remember correctly, the average weekend attendance soared around 5,000. I'm told that number is higher now. It was at Saddleback that Jeff made the decision to walk with Christ and for our 7th wedding anniversary, we were both baptized, side by side. For all the wonder of Saddleback, it was an imposing place. It was easy to get lost in the shuffle and hype. We are forever grateful for the teachings of Pastor Warren and Lee Stroebel, but we knew we wanted something more familial and intimate for our next church home.

Enter Amazing Grace, a small church with a tall steeple right down the street from our new home. From the moment we walked into the foyer, we felt love. This wasn't just any community church -- this was a building of believers, not only in Christ, but in one another. There were smiles, hugs, laughs and an eagerness to form relationships. If you left that building feeling lonely or unloved, you must have been wearing blinders and/or a coat of quills.

Shortly after getting settled in the new town we discovered I was pregnant. We were thrilled. A new baby for our new adventure. By this time, Jeff had joined the church choir (he has a beautiful deep voice), I had become a Daisy leader, and the girls were adjusting to new friends and schooling. After a men's group meeting at church, Jeff teased me that I was having twins. I slapped him on the arm and rolled my eyes. He just laughed and said, "I don't know, Kim. I can't put my finger on why exactly, but I really think it is true. Call it a whisper from God."

The next day I began bleeding. Because I had been planning on a home birth with a midwife, I didn't have a doctor in town. I called a friend from church and asked for a recommendation of a caring OB. I called his office and was able to see him that afternoon. On the way to the office I stopped by the clinic to see Jeff, who wanted to come with me, but was stuck in a state inspection. He hugged me tight and said, "Everything is going to be OK. I know it." and rubbed my tummy and said, "You two need to be nice to your mom." I got upset and said, "Jeff! It isn't funny. We may have lost the baby and you are talking about twins. Please stop." He kissed me and sent me on my way.

It's a good thing I was laying down for the ultrasound. Jeff was right. I was in shock. My placenta was in a weird place, thus causing the bleeding. I won't go into the pregnancy story, but even after 14 weeks of bedrest and several preventative measures, the boys still arrived early. They were born at 32 weeks, weighing 4.3 and 4.13. About an hour after the boys arrived, my door opened slightly and Mr. and Mrs. Schaal (pastor and wife) were there, smiling and clapping. They had come from evening service, where they lifted the boys and I in prayer during delivery. They stayed only a short time but left a mighty impact on my heart.

Backing up a bit, it was during my bedrest time that my new church family showed me their angel wings. I have never experienced such pure love from non-relatives before. Very basic, but important needs were attended to with care. I remember looking out the window one afternoon to 3 teen-age boys riding up in their truck loaded down with lawn equipment, prepared to take care of everything so Jeff could rest a bit. My freezer was stocked with casseroles. My hands were held in prayer. My girls were loved on by other moms and teen-age girls.

Back to the boys - all was running along as smoothly as possible until day 10. Jacob contracted a horrible virus and needed to be life-flighted up to Boise, over 2 hours away by car. Jeff called the men of church and within minutes, we were surrounded by loving prayer warriors. We were instructed to call pastoral care 'just in case' for Jacob. Through tears, we watched as Pastor Lynn lovingly, yet with deep conviction, placed his hands on Jacob and prayed. I will never forget that moment. Ever.

Jeff and I headed to Boise, praying the whole way that our son would still be alive when we arrived. Caleb had to stay behind. Mrs. Schaal, the pastor's wife, lovingly volunteered to sit with Caleb every 3 hours. What comfort that was to me during a horrifying time. Just knowing that her loving arms were cradling him while whispering prayers over his tiny body allowed me to concentrate on Jacob.

Before it was all said and done, both boys ended up in Boise. I was alone in a big city, dealing with NICU babies. The Ronald McDonald house was my 'home' (a very wonderful organization, by the way). Amazing Grace called their sister church in Boise and several times a week I would find someone waiting for me in the family room, open to prayer and errand running. What a gift.
After 34 long days, the boys and I headed back to our real home.

A few Sundays later, the boys and I found ourselves surrounded in the community room. Little did I know, a baby shower had been planned. The ladies formed a circle around us and for the next 2 hours, the boys were lavished with heartfelt gifts, prayer and song. A cherished memory, for sure. The next week, with one boy in the arms of Jeff and the other in Pastor Schaal's arms, they were dedicated. I have pictures of Pastor Schaal nuzzling Jake's head that still brings tears to my eyes.

When the boys were 5 months old, Jeff was faced with the news that the clinic was closing. Because it was a small town, job opportunities were severely limited. We prayed for answers. Within a month, one was sent. Our time in Idaho was to come to an end. We were heading to Indiana, much to our surprise.

With an overly optimistic mind set, we put the house on the market, fully expecting it to sell quickly. Jeff was set to start his new job in 7 weeks. The house didn't sell. The day arrived - Jeff left for Indiana, leaving the kids and I in the house, hopeful it would sell 'soon.'
During that time, we stayed connected to church and once again, the church loved like Christ. They were my lifeline.

The 'soon' turned into 4 months and I was on the proverbial edge. I remember calling Jeff and crying, "I don't care about the money. I don't care about the house. Come get us now, please. It was a mistake to separate the family over a house. I can't do this by myself." Within a week, the moving trucks were in the driveway and we were on our way to Indiana.

Our last Sunday at church was emotional. I wasn't excited about moving. I was overwhelmed. We had been through so much in just under 2 years. I didn't understand why the Lord had put us in this beautiful place for such a short time. I was a tired woman longing for answers.

We arrived in Indiana, set up house in a tiny rental, and proceeded to get acclimated. Within a week, the Idaho house sold, which was a major relief. It was as if God was saying, "See. If you would have given up control all along, I could have shown you my plan much sooner."
Lesson learned.

We have been in Indiana for almost 6 years now. The first 12-18 months were rough. My attitude was not right and my heart was not content. With time and His mercy, it now feels like home. We have been incredibly blessed in this town. We have a new church family. Our roots run deep. We'll save that story for another day since this post has grown exceedingly long.

Before closing - I am left with the word, impact.
One definition of the word is - to drive or press closely or firmly into something; pack in.

Amazing Grace understood this word with precision. Whether it was through sound Biblical teaching, a warm smile, understanding hug, warrior-like prayer or acts of service, Amazing Grace had a multi-generational impact on our family. With their tender touch and Biblical example, they have equipped my family in ways I am still learning. In those 2 years, we learned more about God's grace than any study could ever teach.

I am off to write a note to Mrs. Schaal. Do you have a person and/or community location that impacted your life? Tell them today. Honor their impact by continuing the cycle. Who can you love? Who can you teach? Who needs a smile today? It all starts with one person. Let it be you.


Blogger Deb said...

It is so good to hear your story Kim. It's so encouraging to me. Thanks for sharing...

5:45 PM  
Blogger oceans5 said...

I really enjoyed your story. We have recently gone back to church and it has been so wonderful. We finally found a church that feels like we are meant to be there. It is smaller and the people are amazing. So much good has happened since we took that step of going back to God.

Your story is so encouraging. We are dealing with a lot right now and we decided to give up control and trust in God. Thank you so much for this post.:)

7:41 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

That is a lovely story. I am glad you had your church family during such a difficult time.

We are looking for a church family here. Everything is so big though, and I am used to a small church. God will direct us where to go.

11:08 AM  

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