Category Archives: Faith

Divine Appointments: Gratitude, Pride and Deliverance in Honduras

There is so much one cannot learn about a nation in a brief span of six days. And yet, so much that is known because of a shared Creator.

Two thoughts linger from my week serving with a mission team in Honduras:

  • Gratitude and pride can co-exist
  • Things are not always as they seem

Of gratitude and pride

As we offered food, supplies and prayers to families in and around Monte Redondo, I felt strongly that the receivers of our gifts should not be made to feel inferior because of their need. They may live in one dirt-floored room next to a dump, their clothes may be soiled and their hands rough from picking trash, but they are created in the image of God. They have families who love and need them. And, much of the time, their impoverished living conditions are not of their choosing, but the product of circumstance, and of a corrupt government system that provides only minimal support for poor citizens.

I feared their shame when they saw us approaching. I received their gratitude and joy.

Again and again, we were greeted with a warm smile and a stream of Spanish words that welcomed us into their homes. If a seat was available, it was offered to one of us. Our translators conveyed our message. Questions were asked.

Si, four children. Three families live here. I am out of work. My wife is sick. Please pray for our country…..

And, then…

Gracias. You came all the way from America? I hoped you would come. How can I pray for you? God is good…..

A family with so little showing gratitude? And moments of pride? Humble pride in their beautiful children, the well-kept kitchen, in flowers cultivated by the side of their homes.

We saw a range of living situations, from the dump-side shanties to the bright turquoise stucco homes clustered in a mountainside village. Some were cleaner than others, most were incredibly small.

But they were “home” to the families living there. When I asked our translator, after an extended conversation, why the father in a particular family has not considered another way to live, she said “It’s what he knows, what he likes. For him, there is no other way.”

Of misconceptions

The same gentleman told us he reads his Bible and understands and believes what it says, but he still hasn’t accepted Jesus into his heart. He does not know why, but he can’t take that step. Fear? Doubt?

I asked the translator whether she sees a mix of Catholicism and black magic among Hondurans who are not Christian, as I had encountered in Nicaragua. She said, yes, such confusion does exist.

Then this sweet young woman proceeded to tell me her own story.

She began practicing “witchcraft” at age four and was part of a cult as a teenage. In fact, had she not made the choice to turn her back on the occult at age 18, she feels she would be dead today. It grieves her to see people resist salvation when it is so close at hand. She is just 22, but wise beyond her years, and filled with the joy of her new life in Jesus.

Such encounters and conversations will continue to unravel in my brain and make their way into my heart in the coming weeks as I pray for my brothers and sisters in Honduras.

Aza Rivera was one of the boys rescued from the streets of Honduras nearly 15 years ago. He now works in the ministry and is a worship leader in his church. He is a blessing, both to the children of Forgotten Children Ministries and to the missionaries who serve.

Irene Zavala, Seydy Martinez and Marissa Ponce watched over us, made sense of our crazy Spanglish and, in general, made our week in Honduras fun and memorable. Irene shared her story of deliverance from witchcraft while we walked a steep pathway on our home visits. It’s a story I will never forget.

*****

Today is the last of my posts about our mission trip to Honduras. I’ll be taking a break from this blog for the remainder of the summer as I respond to nudges from the Lord to follow Him in a new direction. I hope you’ll rejoin me sometime around the end of the summer to see what God has up His proverbial sleeve and just how He wants to use me in the future.

Always be listening to His still, small voice. His words are the best.

 

 

On a Mission: Divine Appointments

An unfamiliar birdsong awakened me this morning, as it has for the past three days. I’m in a mountain village in central Honduras — Monte Redondo or “round mountain”. The bird’s trilling is soon interrupted by the sharp staccato of a bus horn. The middle grade boys living at Finca Grace (Grace Farm) chatter as they board the bus to travel one hour into Tegucigalpa to begin school.

The lush green mountains of Honduras always surround us, like a protective cloak, isolating and insulating the people of this small Central American nation. But the reality is that the beautiful mounds of earth cannot protect them from the cares and worries of life.

On Monday and Tuesday mornings, we left early to ride in our school bus to neighboring villages where we walked from house to house, calling out “buenos dias”. We offered them prayer, along with food, clothing, tracts, candies, small toys, beaded bracelets — whatever we could carry on our backs and in our arms.

In each home, we were greeted warmly, invited to sit, offered hugs. Our visits were short, but they knew why we had come. The didn’t refuse prayer, and their list was long.

Family

Children who have strayed from their faith

The loss of a son to cancer

Safety for a nephew trying to get to America

Diabetes

Pregnancies

A job

Good health

Single parenting

They sound familiar. Within our team, we have the same needs, and so we pray together, in a circle, hands linked. Asking God to touch lives, heal brokenness, provide. The blessings flow in both directions.

But this mission has not been without trials, events that could have caused us to question our daring to share the gospel outside our borders. The sudden death of a team member, family illnesses that threatened departure, and finally an accident on a bumpy trail that sent a team member home early.

In each case, God has provided. A new team member, an 18-year-old boy in place of a 77-year-old woman, became a divine appointment. Among his challenges has been helping to care for another team member, a 79-year-old woman who suffered a broken ankle on a trek into the mountains to call on families. Here, still, God provided transportation, an efficient emergency room staff, helpful ticket agents.

And as today’s work unfolded, God again had His way with our well-thought-out plans. When a government-sponsored free food opportunity conflicted with our plan to give hot meals to workers at a city dump, we moved our bus back to Monte Redondo. There we fed lunch to hoards of school children in black and uniforms on a soccer field in the center of the village.

Sometimes, events unfold that are unplanned, even tragic. But always, the mission remains: share the gospel and provide out of our wealth for those in need.

Divine appointments will be made. I’ll share a few more as the week unfolds.

A team member shares gifts and conversation with a family waiting for a free hot meal (note: they did not travel in the car, but walked).

Dwellings for dump workers are stacked into the hillside.

Team members served lunch and gave small gifts to school children in the village of Monte Redondo.

Feet on the Ground, Ministry in our Hearts

Today, the real mission work begins.

At least, that’s what one might assume. When we load our bus with bags of supplies for families living in the surrounding communities here in eastern Honduras, we’ll know our week of missionary work has begun.

Actually, the ministry that’s called our group of 12 women and one brave 18-year-old boy to Tegucigalpa began Saturday night when we shared dinner with the boys at Finca Grace.

And it continued Sunday at a church service and a day spent with the girls in the city. A pair of flipflops, an awkward conversation in two very different languages, games played on oil-cloth covered tables with rain pounding on the roof, hugs and giggles.

Such is the stuff of foreign missions.

We’ve traveled 1,800 miles from Indiana to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. For the next four days, we’ll share food, Jesus, hugs and handshakes with people in mountain communities, city streets and orphanages. Children who formerly lived on the street or in too-small homes with no running water will know that a group of Americans carry them in their hearts.

Later this week, as I gather with women from Monte Redondo for a Bible study on prayer, I’ll also encourage them to claim their inheritance in Christ, to know that they are co-heirs and remind them of how much they are loved.

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” I Samuel 12:23

Breathe: Why I Write and Attend Conferences

A good friend called my cell phone recently while I was attending a writers’ conference in Holland, Michigan. I’ve done some freelance work for her and she had a request. When I told her where I was, she asked “Why do you go to a conference when you already know how to write?”

I had to smile. Why, indeed?

First, I can always improve my writing, so there’s that.

But just as importantly, I go because these are my people. I love writers and appreciate their tenacity, their creativity, their worldview. Ann Kroeker, a writing coach, recently advised her podcast listeners to surround themselves with good writers — in books, in writing groups and, yes, at writing conferences.

Who are your “people”? Where do you go to get energized, inspired? I have a good friend who runs an online supply company for those who knit and crochet. She goes to craft conferences regularly. I get it.

So, I go to my gatherings and come away with fresh ideas and new connections. Today, I’m writing about writing on a blog for one of my very favorite writing communities — Breathe Christian Writers Conference. When I attend their conference in October, I’ll have the honor and privilege to share a Saturday morning devotional on creativity.

Do you write? Or would you like to write? This is the place to go. Great mentoring and sharing happen at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. And, this year’s keynote speaker is the wonderful non-fiction author Leslie Leland Fields.

For more information on Breathe and to read my little piece about why I write, hop on over here.

Redeeming Ruth: A Story of Love and Hope

I love adoption stories. Reading or hearing about families that are formed or enriched by opening their hearts and homes to a child gives me hope for the world in general. Adoption, to me, is the ultimate example of sacrificial love..

Meadow Rue Merrill and her family did just that. In 2004, Meadow and her husband welcomed an abandoned 17-month-old girl from Uganda into their family. Meadow had always dreamed of traveling to Africa and “adopting a beautiful brown baby”. When Meadow and her husband met Ruth, they had three young children, the youngest also 17 months old, but they began thinking adoption could become a reality. However, this child came with complications. She had cerebral palsy and could barely lift her head, let alone sit, walk or run. And, though she was in America, she had to return to the orphanage unless she was adopted quickly. The Merrills made the commitment to give Ruth a home and embarked on the adoption journey.

Meadow began writing her family’s adoption story in 2006 with the hope that their adopted daughter, Ruth, could one day add her voice. That was not God’s plan.

It took Meadow 10 years to write Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores. The result is a beautifully powerful story of a family forever changed by a little girl with an engaging smile and boundless potential. Meadow’s book is part spiritual memoir and part family drama. It also reflects Meadow’s journalistic roots. Her retelling of her trip to Uganda and the many complications that threatened to halt the adoption capture the reader. We feel as if we’re making the journey with Meadow.

In an essay written as she was completing the book, Meadow said this about welcoming Ruth into her family:

“Was raising Ruth hard? Yes. It was also the most unexpected, amazing, life-affirming, heart expanding experience of our lives. Because Ruth could physically do nothing for herself, our new routine—and our three older children’s—involved daily sacrifice. Yet, loving and serving Ruth filled us with joyful confidence that we were living out God’s will, expressed throughout scripture, to share his love with others. Our purpose was to love Ruth, and we did. Completely.

Meadow Rue Merrill

Then, without warning, Ruth died in her sleep after a mild illness. Not only did we lose a beloved child, I lost my trust in God. How could he allow this to happen? Here we had deliberately sought to obey God, and he had broken our hearts.

For months, I struggled to pray or read my Bible—once familiar practices that had often strengthened and comforted me in the past. For me, there was no comfort, only the aching question of who was to blame for Ruth’s death: us? or God? If us, how could I forgive myself? And if God, how could I trust him?

Discovering a hidden, underlying cause for Ruth’s death—something we could not have anticipated or prevented—slowly helped me let go of the guilt I felt. In the weeks and months that followed, I gave myself permission to feel and express the anguish of having lost our precious Ruth. I needed to mourn, but I also needed to be comforted. For those who trust God, grief is not the intended legacy of life. Love is.”

Redeeming Ruth is a book about hope, perseverance, unconditional love, and God’s healing power. If you read one spiritual memoir, biography or travel story this year, choose Redeeming Ruth. Your soul will be enriched and your trust in humanity expanded.

At this point, I would normally offer to give a copy of Redeeming Ruth to one of my readers. However, a copy of this book will be placed in the hands of a dear woman in our community who has fostered and adopted children here in America and has opened her heart to orphans in Honduras.

For You — ‘Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives’

“And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to Bloom.” Anais Nin

I would love to give every woman in my life a copy of Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives. Instead, I’m going to share bits of it here (and give away one copy) in hopes that you will give yourselves this gift of life-changing stories.

This beautiful collection of essays and poems, written by the women of Redbud Writers Guild, is dedicated to:

“…all women who have yet to find freedom in Christ in order to embrace their story and share it with the world. We believe in you, and we pray this book will help you ‘walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.’ ” (Hebrews 4:16 from The Message)

Every story and poem in Everbloom picks up a thread in the analogy of a tree – roots, trunk, branches and blossoms. Just like the women of the Guild, they are diverse and rich in story. With vulnerability and sensitivity, they point the way for all of us as we experience loss, fear, joy, confusion — life.

From a lovely essay by Bronwyn Lea titled “No Story Wasted”:

“I went into motherhood expecting a time of spiritual drought. After years of vocational ministry and a rich spiritual diet of study, prayer, and witnessing the Spirit at work, I anticipated that maternity leave would mean switching from go-go-go to idling in neutral.
I did not expect God to shop up in the nursery, whispering to me that the tenderness and love I felt toward my baby was just a fraction of how he felt about me. How her dependence on me was just a fraction of my dependence on him.
The Spirit met me in the silent spaces. In the wild and surprisingly solitary clearing of motherhood, God showed me an artesian well I hadn’t known was there and whispered “Plant yourself here, my thirsty one. Blessed is the one who walks with me: she is like a tree planted by streams of water, she yields fruit in season, her leaves do not wither.”

And this, a piece by Sarah Rennicke about feeling displaced as her career took her far from home. It is entitled “Untangled”:

“Following Jesus requires my all, not pieces scattered here and there, given then taken away because it doesn’t feel right. He calls for complete devotion, but allows the freedom of struggle as I mourn what I have given up in the process. For me, it was familiarity, belonging, and the way I laid out my days. But of course, the best way to push up from the ground is to lay down my life, hand him my heart, and have trust he will settle me where it will be for his glory and my gain.”

And “When a Baby Dies”, words from PeggySue Wells about the loss of an unborn child:

“We buried Violet Trust on May 1. We took pictures of our tiny daughter; my favorite is the photo of her next to my wedding ring. We tenderly swaddled her in the cloth Estee prepared and wrapped her in Leilani’s white satin blanket. After we placed her in the casket Josiah had made, the box was only half-full. Estee and three-year-old Hannah brought out a basket of gifts they had made for the coming baby. Lovely created yarn dolls, bead necklaces, and carefully colored pictures filled the wooden box to the brim. Holly added dried flower petals. Violet was nestled in a box filled with gifts of love from her family and friends.
Nothing was left to do but nail the top on the casket. The ringing of the hammer sounded devastatingly final. We read aloud poems and Scripture friends had sent to encourage our hearts. We prayed and sang worship songs.
Everything within me protested as we laid Violet in her final resting place. I didn’t want my baby to be cold, wet, or alone.”

I met the members of Redbud Writers Guild at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the spring of 2016. But I’d actually stumbled upon these women in writing groups here and there over several years. They were writers of intent whose generosity and faith in the goodness of a giving God drew me to them. During the past year, as a member of this sisterhood, I’ve been inspired, encouraged, challenged, humbled and admittedly, sometimes intimidated. But mostly, I’ve felt nurtured and accepted for who I am – a wife and mother living in a rural community, a one-time newspaper reporter turned blogger, and a writer who aspires to inspire by using the gift of writing.

You can read more outstanding pieces by subscribing to The Redbud Post. This month, my essay on our son’s collision with anxiety is a featured post.

Please leave a comment to win a copy of Everbloom. A winner will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.

For the Love of a Tea Party :: Thistle Farms Changes Lives

There was a party in Nashville, Tennessee, this week and I really wanted to be there. I would have brought the tea cups.

Let me explain.

A few years ago, on a trip to see my sons in Nashville, Tennessee, I ran across a quaint little café on the northwest side of the city. Thistle Stop Cafe sits in a corner storefront on Charlotte Pike. With giant purple thistles painted on one the side of the building and a huge metal thistle sculpture on the other, it’s hard to miss.

The café serves wonderful breakfasts and lunches, as well as specialty coffees and teas. A display to the side of the coffee counter offers Thistle Farm’s natural bath and body products, handcrafted fair trade items and books.

Photo: Thistle Farms

The food and the service were both delightful, but the most remarkable feature of the café was the lighting. Hanging from the ceiling were chandeliers made of china tea cups.

I rarely make a trip to Nashville without stopping in the café, but when I visit the city this weekend, I’ll have to pass. The café is closed for remodeling and expansion and will reopen this summer. When it does, my tea cups (which I’ll deliver on my visit) will be hanging from the ceiling along with thousands of others from throughout the country and around the world.

More important than my need for a great meal, or my appreciation for the intentional work of the company, or even the beautiful tea cup chandeliers, is the mission of Thistle Farms — to heal, empower and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. The women who cook and serve and create the body care products are doing a healing work, living out the ministry’s motto “Love Heals”.

Founder Becca Stevens, right, helps prepare a display of skin care products made and packaged by the women living and working at Thistle Farms. (Photo: Thistle Farms)

As for the party I missed, Thistle Farms hosted a concert and celebration marking 20 years of dedication to its mission. Founder Becca Stevens, country singer Reba McEntire and the women of Thistle Farms gathered at the historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville on May 3 to honor program graduates in an event that raised funds for the ongoing work of Thistle Farms.

“This week’s event celebrated work that is firmly rooted in the belief that love is the strongest force for change in the world. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.” Founder Rev. Becca Stevens

Last year, customers and donors of Thistle Farms helped make the following possible:

  • 59 women survivors employed by Thistle Farms, earning over $1m a year in salary and wages
  • 9,215 nights of safe, supportive housing provided to women recovering from life on the streets
  • 14,100 hours of counseling and therapy for survivors, ensuring their physical and mental well-being
  • 40 organizations across the country replicated our housing model, currently offering 185 beds for women seeking sanctuary from the streets
  • 24 shared trade partnerships around the globe, supporting the economic freedom of more than 1,700 women

These words from the father of a young woman healed at Thistle Farms express the heart of this project:

“Knowing Rachel had a safe environment for her journey, gave me, as her father, the comfort and confidence to continue on my recovery journey, which I began during her incarceration. Once a week I now attend two 12-step programs for parents and families with addiction, Al-Anon and Families Anonymous. The strength of the Thistle Farms program provided a secure environment for Rachel, which helped me to pursue my recovery from co-dependence. We were on parallel journeys to recovery.”

My china tea cups belonged to a dear friend who has survived three bouts with cancer and to my step-mother, who passed away last summer at age 88. They’ll be wrapped in newspaper and placed in a box along with half a dozen cups I purchased at a thrift store run by a domestic violence agency in my hometown. Profits from sales at the thrift store help provide services for survivors of domestic violence and their families. It seems appropriate that they should be hanging in a space where women are finding hope and healing.

Five Minute Friday :: Sing A Song of Ascent

I haven’t done this for awhile, but I’m diving in today to write for five minutes flat on the word “Sing”. Find more five-minute essays or join the conversation here.

I cannot. Sing, that is. I warble along with songs on the radio or on my I-phone and I put my heart into worship on Sundays, but singing solo is just not my thing. And believe me — you wouldn’t want it to be.

I camped out in the Psalms of Ascent during Holy Week (Psalms 120-134) and I couldn’t help myself. I lifted my voice to chant holy songs that have carried words of praise, cries of lament, choruses of gratitude to the ear of God for thousands of years.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Verses like these prepared my spirit for the darkness and the beauty of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. When our gathering of believers burst into song on Easter, I was ready and willing to sing with abandon.

As I read the 15 Psalms of Ascent, I thought of David, author of several of them and “a man after God’s own heart.” It is from his seed that Christ descended. His lifelong journey was filled with song. He was a man wont to celebrate with undignified abandon when filled with the joy of his Lord.

David Crowder expresses David’s joy in one of my favorite praise songs, “Undignified”. Enjoy.

I will dance, I will sing to be mad for my King
Nothing more that’s hindering, there’s passion in my soul
I will dance, I will sing to be mad for my King
Nothing more that’s hindering, there’s passion in my soul

I’ll become even more undignified than this
Some may say it’s foolishness
But I’ll become even more undignified than this, oh yes

 

 

Invitation To A Feast: Bible Studies That Study the Bible

Recently, a handful of women from my church joined me in reading and discussing Lysa TerKeurst’s book “The Best Yes”. Though our numbers dwindled over the six weeks we met, those of us who remained at the end agreed that our time together had been well-spent.

TerKeurst is a New York Times best-selling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s a popular, gifted teacher and ministry leader. We were entertained, challenged and informed. And in some ways, we were changed by engaging through her book and the accompanying DVD-led study.

So why, as leader of this study group, do I feel like these women were short-changed?

As only God can do, I’ve received some gentle conviction in recent weeks over where I go — and where I lead others — for the study of God’s word. At the very least, I’ve been stopped in my tracks while I think about His desired path for women who want to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not sorry that we read this book. Nor do I feel we were misled in any way by the God-inspired wisdom offered by Lysa Terkeurst. I do, however, feel I misled the women by advertising the group as a Bible study. We discussed my “false advertising” in our first session and the women graciously forgave me. But in the end, it was as if I’d invited the ladies to come for bread and wine and served them chips and cola instead.

Tasty, but not as good as the real thing.

I’ve participated in women’s Bible studies for years, as proven by my library shelf full of Beth Moore, Priscilla Shire and Jennie Allen study books. I’ve read (and studied) many wonderful Christian books about topics that interested me written by spiritual leaders I respect, both men and women. Most of them have led me to a fuller understanding of scripture.

Here’s the thing. At least one of the women in our little gathering appears to be a “baby Christian” and I got the distinct feeling she was attempting to digest savory doctrinal commentary, when what she really needs is pure, simple food. Namely, the word of God.

Don’t we all?

My concerns are backed up by Bible teacher and author Jen Wilkin. Her essay in Christianity Today, “Let Bible Studies Be Bible Studies”, addresses this very issue.

“Churches must distinguish clearly between what is Bible study and what is something else because the average churchgoer may not be able to on her own. Knowing they should study the Bible, earnest Christians sign up for what we have labeled a Bible study, assuming that it is,” says Wilkin.

In her opinion, biblical illiteracy is pervasive in our churches, in part because we fail to point out the difference between pure Bible study and book study. Her church has become intentional about precise terminology when offering studies, with an emphasis on pure Bible study.

Moving forward, our church will do the same.

When a disciple of Christ desires to understand their choice to follow Him, going to source materials should be the first step. A well-versed Bible teacher can help by setting the table and joining in the feast, utilizing commentaries and even various translations to aid in the understanding of scripture.

In her excellent book “Women of the Word”, Wilkin says this about the value of intentional Bible study:

“Sound Bible study transforms the heart by training the mind and it places God at the center of the story. But sound Bible study does more than that — it leaves the student with a better understanding of the Bible than she had when she started.”

Reading and discussing good Christian books can enhance our application and even our understanding of scripture, but reading them should not be a substitute for studying the Bible itself, word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16

 

 

 

 

When Faiths Collide: Finding Myself in Ash Wednesday

I stood in line for the symbolic smudge of ashes on the first day of Lent, unprepared for what that touch to my forehead would to do my heart.

In the glow of candlelight, tears spilled unbidden. And there she was again, standing at the altar. Skinny, smiling shyly as she posed in her white communion dress, mousy brown hair peaking from beneath a froth of netting, white anklets scrunched above black patent leather shoes. Ardent in her practice of a faith that formed her, the girl’s eyes glowed with the joy of taking her first communion. Her first confession.

Her first receiving of the ashes.

Did she know that five decades later, she’d stand at another altar and her heart would bust wide open, full with the joy of taking back the precious meaning of the ashes?

I turned away from Catholicism as a high school senior, lured by the popular youth group and upbeat music offered by my friends’ non-denominational church. I wanted guitars and games, not incense, chiming bells and Latin liturgy. A copy of The Living Bible went with me to college. My Catholic scriptures were left behind on a bedroom shelf.

An outdoor wedding ceremony officiated by the pastor of that non-denominational church set me on a path toward spiritual awakening and growth. Women in the church mentored and encouraged my still-ardent love for Jesus, and I learned to share Him with others. In years to come, pastors from various denominations and other churches contributed to a deepening faith that sustained me through trials — divorce, loss, cancer.

The security of a faith built on decades spent living out God’s Word among His people allowed me to listen when a gentle ripple of longing began to surface. In the beginning, I couldn’t put a word to the yearnings that bubbled in a quiet corner of my soul. I love my church. I’m in deep agreement with the doctrine and theology of our evangelical protestant beliefs and practices. But, like a lamp lit by a low-wattage bulb, my rock-solid faith lacked some of the glow that burned across the years from the altar of that little Catholic chapel of my childhood.

Then, last summer I met two faithful women doing a work of revival at a Catholic retreat center, and the yearnings slipped into place.

Beauty, symbolism, tradition, corporate prayer, holy seasons. I had shed them like an ill-fitting coat in my youth. Now, I felt the loss of their weight and warmth.

I soaked up the joy of those women doing a work for Jesus, offering to add a work of my own to their revival project. As we talked and planned, I recognized and understood what shined from their eyes when they spoke to me of tradition. Of miracles, healings, sacraments. Of a church history that, in many ways, all Christian faiths share.

It was familiar because it was part of me.

My stepmom passed away shortly after these women completed their project. It was inevitable that my grieving was bound up by their unwavering commitment to The Church. And by my stepmother’s. Her collection of Catholic icons, prayer books, rosaries, holy medals and other symbols of faith passed through my hands. They gave weight once again to what I’d known and lived, to the faith that formed me.

You can turn from one good thing and replace it with another. But can you wipe away the imprint that one thing left on your soul? Or can you acknowledge the stirrings and make space for them to be welcomed in the now?

Our evangelical Christian church chose to observe Ash Wednesday for the first time in many years. Dipping back into the dust of a tradition that lay at the foundation of my faith brought me face-to-face with the ardent little Catholic girl who was the Bride of Jesus.

Her eyes still glow.

“Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19b