Dear Family Around the World,
Greetings in the Love and Grace of Jesus! I know it has been many months since my last missal; as always, thanks for your patience! One of you wrote me today an jarred me to write...I am grateful!
Friends and fellow journeymen, there has been too much that has happened since the last posting in August to tell it all here, but let me try to pick the threads as best I can…
The theme for the last year and nearly two for me has been Grace. Grace for everything. Grace for me and for all God’s creatures. It has frustrated me to tears, angered me at times, terrified me but it has held me, deeply, closely and unconditionally close to the heart of my beloved Jesus.
Let me tell the tale…
When I was about 26 I realized one day that I absolutely HATED grace. I wanted nothing to do with it. This was a shocking thought as I was leading a campus ministry at the time and preached and taught regularly – I was keenly aware that a Christian should NOT HATE grace! So I spent some weeks meditating and praying about it asking God to tell me why this was true (and I knew in my soul that it was). God was faithful and gave it to me – he told me I hated Grace because it implied I messed up SO incredibly badly that there was no cure for it. If God did not give his grace whatever the endeavor or life (mine or someone else’s) would be lost or permanently broken. It deftly hit all my perfectionist buttons and would not let me go.
I couldn’t change this about myself (hummm… imagine, not being able to give God’s grace from yourself to yourself…inconceivable! ;) ) so I asked God to teach me what Grace is and to help me to learn to love it. This was the beginning of now a 10 year discussion that was carried forward and deepened greatly by my time in Middle-East (ME) and continues to carry forward in these last few months I’ve been home.
When last we spoke I had just gotten to my first post in AFG – FOB Lightning and I was transitioning in. Well, the transitions never ended. I went to 16 different FOBs COPs or Camps during my short 5 months there. I went from being a parish pastor in KU to being a Circuit Rider (anyone remember John Wesley? Replace the horse with a helicopter…that’s the idea). Of those 16 I was able to get back to a handful of them several times. I am really good with Blackhawk helios now.
Many of you have asked or hinted at asking how much danger I was in. I was in some, I did get shot at and blown up occasionally, but there were many I ministered to who were (AND STILL ARE) in constant danger and have to bear that daily. I say this, because the grace it evoked in me was sheer ministry of the moment and ministry of presence. And I both loved it and was completely wiped out emotionally, mentally and spiritually by it. I got used to speaking truth as deeply and graciously as the person I was talking to would allow… and I finally really started to own that darned ‘gift’ of prophecy God gave me years ago…
God gave me divine appointments EVERY day. Sometimes I would be sitting in the chow hall and someone would just sit near me. We’d strike up a conversation (either by their gesture or word or mine) and I would find something God was doing in their lives – not like a ‘hard core’ evangelical discussion where I was pushing an agenda, but a Gracious discovery – it came to me, I did not need to look for it. Sometimes I got to speak the words of God’s love for them directly using scripture or other ‘God language’ but many times it was just the sheer grace of being in each other’s company and fellowship… it was enough to communicate the life, love and presence of Jesus. I was always every bit as blessed as I think/hope I blessed. God also blessed me with a few precious friends while I was there who ministered to me intentionally and unintentionally. This too was just a jaw-dropping experience of feeling the Grace of God enfold and love me.
I’ll be honest, there were times when I became so overwhelmed with EVERY kind of battle that I was surrounded by – spiritual, emotional and LASTLY physical – that about ½ way though I really felt much of my faith and hope that God could break through all this was really quite broken. But I still had love. I still absolutely LOVED Jesus in spite of being furious with him and terrified of his plans, I could still love and receive love from him. So, work with what ya got! I kept loving people. I kept preaching. I kept showing up to the places and times God invited me to. And I realized a funny thing; I really did still have faith and hope… they just were absolutely no longer dependent on me in any way, shape or form. They belonged to and came entirely from Christ himself. What humbling grace… And it was humbling… I am often arrogant enough to believe I am the agent of my own healing by the choices I make or don’t make. While I do think I have a role to play, the overwhelming evidence for me now is that Christ fights much harder and much more consistently that I can even imagine…and I have nothing to do with it; he will love me till the end of time because it is in HIS nature to do so.
There is still something in this (my still raging perfectionism, I’m sure) that makes me very anxious. I still have many days where I feel the need to ‘get it together’ and make myself trust God… it does make me laugh a lot more that it used to… but the journey continues and really is unendingly gracious to me in it… I am a bit stunted, but as the song says ‘He’s not finished with me yet.’
Since I’ve been home, I’ve not done much compared to my ‘other life.’ And I have been so blessed by it.
When I first got back, since I’m a reservist, not active duty, folks REALLY didn’t understand my life – they kept asking me where I was stationed or what job I was doing now… I’d JUST got off the plane and folks were asking me this… I love the American culture of busyness… *sigh* I’ll admit, I wasn’t always as patient or gracious as I could have been. But that was a really frustrating question for me- I need space to be purely Terri, purely human for a minute and to detox from all the roles and emotional enmeshments I’d gotten myself into … so I would fluff folks off (sorry if you are one of them!).
What surprised me the most was how fractured my thinking had become. Most of you know my famous wit and sarcasm and ability to fire off a funny and almost (!) inappropriate comment in almost in circumstance for the sake (hopefully!) of bridging an awkward moment or building a community. This was REALLY out of sync when I got back. I’d think of something like 10 minutes after the moment happened or even DAYS after… I came to realize this was the mental fatigue most of us (redeploying military and civilians) experience when we transition back. When I got to AFG I was probably at about 50% of my normal capacities; when I left, I think I was around 10. I continue to not realize how depleted I get; so continued prayers there… This is part of why it took so long to write y’all – just haven’t had it in me…
But I’ve spent the last few months hanging out with friends, running a lot, working out – passed my Army Physical Fitness test for this 6 months quite well and enjoyed meeting some fellow reservist here in the Denver area – a wonderful bunch of engineers who were awesome in helping me get this done. I also started talking to the MOB (mobilization) desk about a new assignment. Turns out FT Hood didn’t need the help, but Germany does… So, in God’s timing (A LONG fun God story here, too), I was offered the position of Reserve Rear Detachment Chaplain for Reserve units that are deployed forward (IQ or AFG); which means I'll be looking after the families and Soldiers who stay behind while the rest of the unit goes forward (sort of the opposite job I did from KU/AFG- also very pastoral and I'm looking forward to it!). I’ll be back in Bamberg (for those of you who remember that story – perhaps THIS now is why I went then?!) and I’ll be there for a year. I leave 31 MAY.
So that’s the scoop, dear ones – thanks for hanging in here with me and praying/encouraging me… I really can’t tell you how deeply you all touch my life. And because you do, you free me to touch others. I am a blessed and rich woman.
I’ll post my address when I’m sure I have it right – usually Army rigmarole to go through! But I will say, this MOB is SOOOOO much easier than the last and the guys (chaplains) over there are being SUPER helpful and welcoming – I even still know a few folks from when I was there last time!
Please pray for me for transitions – always tough – the usual travel details and setting up a new life stuff; pray that God would bless me with great friends and help me to continue to maintain the ones he’s given already; pray for the mission – that I would see God and know my role and step into it unafraid. As always, write to me – tell me of your lives and times! I do pray for you guys and LOVE it when you ‘drop in.’ Thanks again for being my friends and fellow travelers…