I don’t cry easily. Really, I don’t. But this week, I have. The overwhelming sadness that sits right outside our doors is hard to fathom. Every morning I get pulled from a deep sleep into a waking up, and my thoughts go like this, “It’s light. It’s morning…. oh, we are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. I then pick up my phone to check the time and it is blowing up with updates and information from around the world. Every day the numbers get higher, every day more people die. Really healthy, young people. Babies. Healthy adults, the elderly, the poor, the needy, the rich…it does not much matter. This virus is wreaking absolute havoc on humanity.
It’s sunny and warm out here in Kansas City today. The Robins are singing, the bluebirds are back, fluttering from tree to tree gathering little berries off trees to bring back to their nests. They have really been my only companions besides Rob and Belle. They are so funny to watch. Ive gotten several photos of them, their little head tilts make me laugh. One was listening to a cardinal sing yesterday, and it tilted it’s head toward the song, seeming to like it.
Everything in my yard feels very, very safe.
But “out there” …wow. It’s dark, even on the sunniest of days with the bluest of skies. I suppose it’s appropriate, considering it is Holy Week. The week Jesus was betrayed. The week leading up to his end. The completion of his job on earth in body form. Jesus wept. He did, and we can too.
We need each other more than ever. You have the power to be the light in someone’s day today. Shine bright friends, we can overcome this darkness together.
When you leave a church and have been in that church’s active ministry, it’s hard. It’s hard, because so many people misunderstand. It’s hard because people tell people what they heard, leaving a long and confused string of thoughts and ideas about why the leavers left. It’s hard because it is a loss-both to the leaver and to the stay-er. The sense of loss on either end no doubt can be measured by the investment of time in the place, and the people of the church.
In my experience, we have only served at really large churches, and I am guessing the “large” mega-ness of these mega churches only amplify feelings, raw emotion, words, insinuation, etc., although I have also learned that People are People Wherever You Go. I am sure small churches have issues that are just as difficult to navigate. For myself and our family, we’ve lived large, and that can come with a lot of interesting factors when raw emotion and sincere beliefs are mixed without much direction for how to handle t hem in a healthy and productive way.
Rob was a pastor at Granger Community Church for 21 – 22 ish years. We moved to Kansas in 2014 so he could serve on the pastoral team at Westside family church. We’ve lived in Kansas almost five years now. It is difficult for me to believe Belle was in third grade when we moved here. Whitney was finishing up eighth grade, and Maddie finishing up her freshman year in high school. The girls are now 20, 18 and 15. Belle has her drivers permit. I still cannot wrap my head around that, considering such a short time ago we packed up her Polly Pockets, Barbies and Littlest Pet Shop toys.
Leaving Granger was by far the most difficult decision Rob and I have ever made, because it broke our hearts to leave a place, we poured so much life and love into. Nearing the end of our time there, I was feeling bewildered, un-needed, unnecessary. Rob was working harder and harder to fix everything that was wrong in that moment, I had my hands utterly full with three delightfully spirited girls, so much so that I forgot that my feelings lay somewhere below the surface of my busyness. I forgot Rob had feelings too.
When I allowed myself to slow down, I realized I was sad that Rob was never home on the weekends. I was sad that my friendships frequently went wonky because of his position in the church and community. My friends would disagree with something church related, which they absolutely had a right to do, and it was often too difficult to navigate issues too complex for me to figure, in order to save the relationship. There seemed to be more that was complicated in our lives than what made sense. It was hard.
Rob was given a sabbatical as a gift for a “Job well done” after serving 20 years at Granger. That summer we sat with friends and Soul Care professionals Steve and Gwen Smith at the Potter’s Inn. They peeled back those painful layers so we could see the raw emotion we were both stifling under the surface of our lives. It was incredibly painful to come to terms with the fact that the way we were living was not good or healthy for ourselves, our family, or for anyone. We decided together that it was time to change the scenery and save our marriage and family. We needed to make some drastic changes.
And so we did. As I have mentioned, there were ripples and waves of discussion and speculation. I wrote a post the day Rob resigned, published it two hours before the announcement came. I was instantly and permanently shamed from the inside circles, people I loved and adored, raised babies with, prayed with, vacationed with, etc. in one moment turned against me. I was devastated and confused. It knocked me down for a long, long time. I loved the people of Granger with all my heart. My post simply stated that we were tired, we needed to focus on our marriage and family, “mega” was not working for us any longer, and we needed to move on. I was hoping my post would help explain that. To many it did. To several it did not.
Along with the negative, there were hundreds of positive words and kind thoughts sent our way. Why is it that the few less than kind comments hurt the most? I’m not sure. I wish I were mature enough to dismiss them with grace, shielding my heart in the most appropriate way, while navigating the pain in a perfect way that never stepped on the toes of anyone ever. But I have found I am not that person. Not at all. I say what is. I cannot say more or less. I have lived a long forty five years, and have found that the most comfortable in my own skin I’ve ever been are the times I’ve shared my truth without the commentary of a hundred voices in my head. I listened to and tried to please everyone, and that was part of my demise. I can’t please everyone. I cant make everyone happy, or even like me.
Here we find ourselves, at the crossroads of another ending and a new beginning. Rob left Westside Family Church in November, and now…we are planting our own church, The KC Underground. We are loving it, serving together and living it together, as we love to do.
There are many differences in why we left both Granger and Westside, but I have changed, quite a lot. What did I learn from what really hurt?
A few things. I learned that:
1: My heart is worth guarding. I do whatever I need to do to keep my heart safe.
2: To trust the few, rather than the many. My close friends and confidants are the ones I lean and depend on. The public-ness of our lives does not mean that the public can have full access to my words, thoughts and feelings.
3: To make my closest allies people who are not affiliated with my husband’s workplace. These friends can offer fair perspective because the only skin they have in the game is their relationship with me, not with me, my husband, and whole church.
4: Not to take criticism too much to heart. I can let criticism crush me. I’m learning to take in what I need to and let the rest go. Words can hurt, but only if I let them.
5: Jesus is my best, best friend. Walking with Jesus down lonely roads has made me stronger than I have ever been. His love and grace and poured over me and in me, capturing my heart and imagination, setting my soul on fire.
If you are in full time ministry or church work, prepare yourself for the comings and goings before they happen. Keep your soul healthy as you know how. Trust Jesus and let your friends love you. Stay strong and remember your true north. Your soul is worth it.
Family. Home. These words remind us that we have a place. That we have a space and people to come home to that is safe and warm and full of grace and hope.
Home is a place to come and heal after mistakes are made, or to recover injuries from ugly words thrown around like darts at our heads. For us, family is about being the best “us” we can be for each other in times of joy and sadness.
Quite often, we forget. We get selfish, run behind, pour into the important and pass over the eternal. We fight. We stick with our correct and rightly defended arguments. We fuss over silly things and make room for unreasonalbitlty when our own self gets in the way.
Family is hard. Five personalities stretching and pulling and growing to boundless dreams and limits and further in to independence pulls at all of our hearts. There is pulling, stretching and hurting as growing pains do often hurt.
In these times, it is important for us to practice long held traditions. Practicing our family traditions remind all of us what makes a Wegner a Wegner.
One especially fun tradition Rob and I have kept since moving away from Chicago and deep dish pizza in 1993 is creating our very own likeness of our favorite. We make the pizza together, and eat. Our tradition has gone from the two of us, then Maddie helped us. When Maddie was old enough she would show Whitney how it’s done and pour the cheese like a pro. When Belle was old enough, she had four people to tell her how it’s done, so she usually does it her own way, which is what makes it even more special.
Since the girls were old enough to hold a spoon and stir, they have been our little helpers. Everyone matters in our family. Everyone is equally important an is needed to fulfill this task. There have been years our pizza barely made it through the process of being made because there were spills, tears, dogs grabbing a sausage and running away, but these are the real moments that make family family. We laugh so much when we are all together. Watching my girls grown in independence, creativity, boldness and humor have been the biggest joy filled surprised of my mommy-hood.
We come home at the end of the day to life, to love, to tradition, to family.
My family, my world. I am more grateful every day for the people God gifted me with, called family. We are not perfect. We are flawed–Pretty much all of us. But, we love. We forgive. We grant pardon, we embrace, we venture on, because This is Us. This is our family.
It’s Christmastime. Noel. Peace on Earth, good will to all. Light has come, and is in us and around us and through us if we just turn inwards, upwards and outwards and notice. Light is Come. Enjoy this piece of my inward, upward and outward journey toward Light.
I’m in a quandary this Christmas season. We’ve been through the most difficult transition year of our married lives, our girls have said goodbye to all of their childhood friends, we sat in a room with a dozen friends we raised our babies with and sobbed. Gut wrenching, heart aching, sobs. I’ve never cried harder in my life than that evening, saying goodbye to lifelong friends.
In May we made the move from Granger, In. to Shawnee, Ks. The best, but most difficult family decision we’ve ever made. I’ve felt like an ocean has been moving under my feet since we landed, trying to get acclimated myself, get my girls acclimated, figuring out how to fix a new bathtub with new problems, how to keep the hot sun from killing my plants, and all that normal stuff.
And then in September, my precious Uncle died. How do I tell my aunt, who spent years of her life dedicated to him, to Jesus, to their children…translating the bible into unwritten languages, whom she loved…how do I tell her to be merry this christmas?
In November, my cousin died. He was too young. Only 5 years older than me. The thought of losing him does not ring true with “Merry and Bright” or a cup of Christmas cheer.
A mamma lost not one, but three babies, triplets, born too early this week. They suffered through the trauma of the funeral of the first two, held out hope for the third. He died. Now another funeral.
The news…the news. I cannot even bare to watch it with my children asking questions about atrocities committed against children their own ages. I cannot even watch the news alone.
But I can walk in the darkness of this Advent hour. I can walk in peace, with lots and lots of tears, but with peace. Knowing my Savior was born. He came to save a fool like me. He came to abolish slavery, to set the prisoners free. He came to love. He came to forgive. To teach us to love and forgive by what He did for us. Born humbly. Walked through His ordinary days like an ordinary guy, but holy. Perfect. Full of love. Never casting the poor or needy aside if they did not match up with His holy critera for those worthy of His time. He walked slowly. He touched. He held. He healed. He lifted heads. He gave new names. He brought joy. He brought mystery. He brought laughter. He brought light. He embraced the unembraceable.
He was the light. And He is. He is the lifter of our heads, the light in our darkness. Forever.