Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Weeping and Joy

“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”
– Betty Scott Stam

For nearly a year now I've been walking around with a gaping chest wound.  

Well, not really.  But its emotional equivalent.  

A year ago, John was in discussion with the OPC's Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE), planning future interviews for the job of General Secretary, and I began to think of what this job change would mean for our family.  The enormity of it frankly overwhelmed me and, like Scarlet O'Hara, I pushed it off until another day.  

We knew when he started this interview process that he was uniquely qualified for this job (General Secretary of CHMCE), but we also knew that he was uniquely qualified to be the pastor of Mission OPC.  And we were quite comfortable in Minnesota, thank you very much.  We had put down roots, carved a place for ourselves, developed friendships of mutual liking and reliance.  We had no reason to leave.  

Except that God seemed to be calling John to this new position.  I won't go into all the reasons, but it was clear to both of us that God had been preparing him in some out-of-the-ordinary ways all his life for a job like this.  

So, when he received the official call from the committee, he accepted.  With my full knowledge and blessing, knowing that God was up to something for our good and His glory.  

But my heart was kicking and screaming.  

I like it here.  I am content here.  I have friends here.  I have a life here.   My kids like it here.  They have friends and a life here.  We have some of the most wonderful adopted grandmothers a family could ask for.  Why should we leave?  

I have spontaneously burst into tears countless times over the last year, most especially when I think of taking Sam (and the rest of us!) away from Pat and Katie (those adopted grandmothers).  

God provided Pat and Katie when I didn't even know enough to pray for Him to send them to me.  The first year we moved here, I had a baby, a pre-schooler, a first grader and a third grader; I was homeschooling (or trying to); I had no friends or support close by; my husband was completely distracted with learning how to be a pastor to a young church plant; and I was miserable.  

Enter Pat and Katie.  Along about January of that first year, they offered to take the kids for a few hours once a week.  That time was a life-saver.  Literally!  And since then, they have taken whatever kids are around for a few hours every week.  They have stood in as grandparents on Grandparents Day at school; Pat helped me paint Johanna's bedroom and helped John organize the garage; Katie baked a number of birthday cakes for Sam; and both have done countless things to help, support and encourage us.  

And we're going to walk away from them?

This happens to many pastors and their families, but because we were far away from biological family as well as involved in just about every aspect of the church, Mission OPC has been our family.  We are part of the ins and outs of each others' lives.  We celebrate together; we mourn together; and what's more, we live our ordinary lives together.  

And we're going to walk away from them?

After that year of homeschooling, we found a classical, Christian school for Will to attend.  He has attended ever since, and Micah and Johanna have attended there, as well.  This is also the school where I taught for a year and where John coached several sports teams.  We have friendships with many of the parents and any number of mutual happy memories with these folks.

And we're going to walk away from them?

Hence, the feeling of living with a gaping emotional wound these days.  This has felt, at times, something close to panic.  I have mourned this move like the loss of a limb.  

But, last week, I was reminded of a prayer I discovered in high school and loved so much that I wrote it in the front cover of my Bible.  It was that prayer above by Betty Scott Stam.  

It was only later I found out the extent to which that prayer was answered for the Stams.  And, of course, being asked to go to Philadelphia is hardly akin to going to Communist China or Uganda or even inner city Detroit.

(See, I still have a sense of humor about it all.)

And yet it is a call from the Lord and it's asking me to give up what I value more than I ought: comfort.  

I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but this move is decidedly uncomfortable in a number of ways, physically, mentally, spiritually, and definitely emotionally.  

And yet I am reminded that it is the Lord's call and I said, long ago, that I would go where He called me.  Presumably, that means I'd even go to Uganda, although I rather hope He finds plenty for me to do in Philadlephia!  

But He has called and I must go.  And this reminder has comforted me.  If I'm doing what He has called me to do, then I'm right where I should be.  Weeping may endure for the night - and I have the feeling there are more tears in our near future - but joy comes in the morning.  

Particularly the joy of following where He leads.  Even if He leads me away from a place I love.


  1. as a pastor's kid
    i fully empathize with your
    range of emotions here

    i well recollect
    the painful pulling up of roots
    and the process of growing them again
    somewhere new

    and whilst those times were undoubtedly hard
    i can look back now and appreciate
    the ways that my character and faith grew
    and stretched because of those moves

    praying that this transition
    will be as smooth as possible
    and that the Lord will provide in ways
    that are as yet unseen.


  2. I thought I commented yesterday but perhaps the system doesn't like my phone. I'll trying to replicate it but we're going to lose some of that extemporaneous flavor...

    When Johanna and Caroline and Henry and I were weeping and hugging and trying to say goodbye to Charlie puppy I knew it was just a taste of what is to come in June. (I was crying (of course) when I wrote the first draft of this and now the tears are coming again.) I wonder about so much crying in advance - do you think it will make it any better when the time comes? I doubt it. It helps to know you're going exactly where you're supposed to go.


  3. Oh, Anne, we will miss you all so much! But I have no doubt that this will be a good thing for you and for the OPC.

    By the way, I love the Stams. I use their story on the first day of my World Missions class, a story I first heard on my grandmother Elliott's knee.


  4. Oh, Anne, this brought tears to my eyes....many blessings to you as you move on to this next exciting stage of your life!

  5. Anne--
    Praying this transition goes well for you, and that God blesses the Shaw family's new adventures with joys and opportunities you can't yet imagine.

    We are about 2.5 hours west of Philly...perhaps I could convince you to stop in and reconnect with an old, old friend sometime?
    Christine Gatchell

    1. Absolutely! I just saw this or I would have responded much sooner! If you see this, Christine, please e-mail me!