The challenge is paramount, but the results inspiring. A life made up of billions of crucial moments, but to sum it all up in only 6 poignant words. The intent is to share more clearly, more deeply, the journey path that has been well worn. My story unfolds like this.
Heritage. Grief. Mission. Broken. Restoration. Abundance.
It all begins with legacy. A rich heritage of godly men and women, eager to follow the way of the cross and exemplify faith and love in community; parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors, and friends.
Mom’s vibrant free spirit – what a picture of the abundant joy and hilarious freedom found in Christ. A woman bursting with no-ceiling faith prayers and wild dreams, and the ability to make even the grocery cashier belly laugh! A deep belief of all God can do in a surrendered heart – a passionate cheerleader for the underdog, an advocate for the oppressed.
A tree planted by streams of water to describe Dad – ever constant, ever loving, ever faithful, ever unshaken by torrential storms of life. Deep, thought-filled, and on a mission to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with His God.
Full of exuberant life – the best friend of a sister and role model one could ask for! Witty, bold-red personality with a compassionate and kind spirit – a true joy. We were blessed with rich heritage soil to be nourished by daily in those formative early years of home.
Amidst the calm sea, intensity hit with tsunami-like force – a wall of grief not forecasted or prepared for. Every one holds their breath in utter disbelief. It’s cancer. It’s aggressive. It’s our Mom.
Just 6 weeks to finish the race well. She called them her 42 “Bonus Days” from God to love deeply and share His truth with as many people as she would encounter. Amazing miracles, unexpected joys during that time – all were preparing her for heaven’s glory. The grief day came, and it felt as if all of earth quaked with sorrow and our spirits were torn down the middle. Rejoicing in her freedom, devastated deeply by our loss.
A blur of days and month – my grief bucket filled and emptied many times a day. Uncertain of where to go from here, I wondered how to finish a university degree in the midst of the chaos. Then there was this weekend spent with thousands of other young adults, seeking God’s heart for the world (Urbana 2006) . The message was spoken loudly, and a vision and mission was planted within my heart.
God zoomed out my life lens dramatically. In a few short months, I saw a world more expansive than myself, and more broken than I had ever realized. The choice became obvious. I boarded a plane in Toronto, destined for Mekelle, Ethiopia. A new mission was underway, to love and care for children and youth in a small mountain community – deeply impacted by AIDS.
From a heart nearly crushed, God revived and breathed new life. Hope was within me once more. A community of broken young adults seeking freedom from addiction, trauma and mental illness, was the next destination. What an eye-opening adventure to see the depravity of young souls in our own backyard. Women from broken homes, from prison and off the streets, became my teachers in faith, trust and transparency. Over time, it became apparent why the journey to this beautiful healing community in New Hampshire, for another broken soul to be healed – mine.
An unlikely friendship emerged with a fellow sojourner during those 18 months while living in intentional community. Our losses similar – having both said goodbye to mom far too early. His heart deeply scarred from the effects of a decade of depression and life-strangling addiction, yet a miracle encounter with His Savior had changed all that. Once a broken young man became a picture of grace, compassion, and unswerving faith. What a true gift during a difficult season of life, and a promise that God’s restoration is always within reach when our hearts are open to receive.
It took two brave proposals, until I spilled out my “yes” to a life spent together. A new journey was full under way – restoration with God, a healed heart and a future to embrace with this miracle man that I had grown to love.
Soon after our vows were exchanged barefooted on the sand, there were unexpected bumps in the road. The passing of another parent to cancer, ongoing health issues and financial struggles, just to name a few. Yet in the midst of it all, we experienced God lavish His joy on us in abundance, with the arrival of three blessings in 5 years. Our brown-eyed boy first, then our sweet curly haired girl, and most recently our laughter-boy – to daily offer joy in the fury of life’s storms.
Today, there is a deep desire to live with abandon for the One who makes all things new. To open hearts and home wide to those in need, to mentor future leaders, and to share this miracle story of hope freely. It is with great anticipation and joy to wait for what the next “yes”to God will be next on this wild adventure.
Photo courtesy of : Ann Voskamp