Thursday, October 22, 2009

my heart is home.

it's easy, in life, to take a survey of your present condition and ask, 'why?'
why am i permitted to suffer?
why am i permitted to prosper?
why am i left wanting?
why am i left with excess?

...why?

i am not going to sit here and tell you my life has been a struggle, though certain aspects have been very trying at times. i have had a good life...a wonderful, loving family...a fine education and i have moved on and started a family of my own.

but i have private (or so i think) moments of turmoil.

i can say with confidence that much of my turmoil in life has occurred over the last 4 years, since marriage, frankly. i smile when i write that, because zero of it has to do with marriage! my husband is the greatest on earth, a loving and faithful leader in this partnership. but it does seem as though we have collided with hardship quite often since becoming married and moving to DC.

i have no idea why.
and truthfully, i've never thought much about the divine timing of it all.

i would say i went through some of the darkest days of my life, while we waded through infertility. i am not proud to admit that i asked God questions i would never publicly repeat. i accused God of things i would never verbally express. i am ashamed of the person i warped into during those excruciating 12 months. those months were hard. so. very. hard.

and then a few months after isaac's birth, i spiraled into physical agony that i never really expected could be possible. and it's funny because many people see the side of my life that i make public. i wear a smile and i do all i can to disguise the pain, but facts are ...i suffer from a rather rare nerve condition in my jaw that can easily level my life, completely. one day i'm fine...the next day i have am dragged in to a surgeons office in 2 seconds flat. and then another surgeon. and then another. i actually meet with the HEAD of the trigeminal neuraglia team at Johns Hopkins next month to clarify some things. the #1 hospital in the country for 18 years straight. what i have is called "the suicide disease." and yes, i understand why. you can pray for me.

yes, i have a good life.
but it does carry some scars.
i have wrestled with sovereignty.
with God's ultimate purposes, which seem strange...but holy.
there are dark moments...
i cry and have cried my fair share of tears.

let's get to the point.

chad and i were taking a walk the other night, with isaac, in the stroller.
he was laughing about how "i thought i married Toyota, but facts are, i married GM."
admit it, it's funny. :)
he's very good natured, but i have all but bankrupted this family with medical bills!

and i caught myself saying, "Thank God i married you when i was 25...had we met a few years later, you never would have married me! all my health problems started when i was 27!"

and in my heart, i've always thought that it was God's blessing to preserve my health until i was married. until i had a teammate to help me through it. until somebody could rub my back late at night and tell me i was still going to be ok. to push me through one. more. day...
and all these years i attributed God's timing to the blessing of Chad. "i was sustained, because God know i would never have survived all this on my own...."

and then tonight happened.

i was actually 27 years old when i became a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
i can't even write that sentence without my screen getting blurry as the tears cloud my vision.
while chad is wonderful and the best husband i could ever ask for...that's not what kept me going. it was my church.

and there is no coincidence that we joined CHBC in March a few years back...and got our first fertility diagnosis that May.
there is no coincidence that i received that sad news with the incident of sitting under the best Biblical teaching i could have ever received. that coupling was purposed for me.
it was no coincidence that my most CHALLENGING times, physically, occurred on fridays or mondays at the doctors office...either of which are the closest business days to SUNDAYS, when i was fed Truth, to recharge my heart.

it dawned on me, in God's loving providence, that God reserved my life's MOST challenging experiences for when i would be sitting in a church that has continued to sustain me. i wish there were words for all that i feel for this body of Christ. for these friends. for this unbelievable example of Love and Unity i share with these 600 people. i had no idea church could be like this...

this church isn't a club...or a place where we gather to hang out with people who are JUST like us. where we can find a common bond...or build relationships on human, earthly commonalities.
this isn't a shopping center where we can go and pick up something that serves our purpose.
and this certainly isn't a place where we all gather for an emotional experience that provides warm fuzzies for our egos.
conversely, church for me can be painful at times...and that's ok. it's refining. it's clear. it's sharp. and it takes me from a place of comfort, into a place where i recognize i need something infinitely bigger than myself, or all this world can provide.

i say all of this, because our dear shepherd and tireless pastor, Mark Dever, has been leading our congregation for 15 years! and tonight we held a TOP SECRET surprise celebration for him, which was more meaningful than i even expected.

i'll post a video of it -- which will probably seem boring and pointless -- but i wanted to post it for myself. just because i never want to forget God's provision to me, through this church, and in particular, this man - our pastor.

Mark is, admittedly, larger than life for chad and me.
i first visited this church back in 2001, and for various reasons, decided not to commit to it, though i'll never forget the mark this man left on my life. his words resounded in my heart and there was something undeniable in his messages. i came to my senses years later...and regret not softening my heart to this church, MUCH MUCH sooner...

he came to our church in 1994 and this week, celebrates 15 years with us.
within the last 15 years, he kick-started an intern program that has discipled men and sent them off to start their own churches across the four corners of our world.
and tonight, MANY of them flew back in as a surprise for mark -- and to say it was moving, is an understatement.

mark has sent men out from our church over the last 15 years....6 of which have started churches in foreign countries...and TWENTY of which have started churches in the united states. his legacy is astounding and His love for people is awe-inspiring...
our building may be 200 years old, and our church may seem to function under a rather archaic set of guidelines (from your perspective!), what actually transpires inside the four walls of this church is astounding. our church operates as a very well-oiled machine: a factory for God-honoring and Spirit-led pastors who desire to take the Word around the world..

rather than clinging to the people he's invested the most time into, and rather than transitioning us to multiple services and multiple locations...mark is most pleased to send those people out and have them reproduce healthy churches for the Kingdom. his vision is biblical and his example is so challenging.

and so tonight, we honored mark and his wife, connie.
the six minute video starts off with us waiting for him....SHH!
and then his arrival...!
then ...one by one....the pastors of those 26 churches from all over our globe walked out from behind the stage....(not a dry eye in the house!)
then mark was presented with a book of letters that each intern, and each pastor has written just for him....
and THEN! his wife, connie had re-composed the music for mark's all-time favorite hymn, and had the congregation sing it to him as a surprise....
and finally, a group shot of all the pastors that can trace their origins (and some, even, their salvation!) to mark's ministry to them as their pastor/mentor....

i was literally walking on air, back to my car tonight.

yes, my life can be hard. and yes, we all have our challenges...
but God's timing can never ben questioned and His Word can be trusted.
His mercies are new...every day.
and this church body, along with my pastor, are a perfect example of His mercies exemplified.

i mean this: i am, without question, blessed beyond all measure...
i am utterly humbled that i am among the few throughout all of history, who can call this church my home....

19 comments:

Julie Nickerson said...

I'm so glad you guys have found a great church home!

praying for you!

Melissa said...

Allison, I just had to comment -- what a privilege to sit under Mark Devers preaching! I read his articles that he writes in the Tabletalk and I am in awe of him. I had no idea you went to his church;) I tell my husband all the time that next time we're in D.C. on a Sunday -- I want to visit his church. And I can totally relate to your emotion about your church family. It's my lifeline right now!

chrissy said...

wow! he looked SO surprised. that's awesome. i bet he was so honored!!!

dude. who was the guy who gave him the book? that's who spoke when i was there!

this is awesome. i'm so glad you feel so at HOME at this place. i'm so glad he can speak the truth to you in a way that you'd feel GOD walking you thru your tough times. that's awesome.....more than awesome.

Allison said...

melissa: that is crazy!!!! if you're ever in DC on a sunday, the services are at 1030am!!! and the childcare is spectacular, too! COME!

chrissy: that's michael lawerence, another one of our pastors!

The Schmitz Family said...

Hi Allison,

Sorry to hear that you have been going through such hard times. I came across your blog through my mom being friends with you on facebook and have visited it a couple of times.

We live in the Baltimore area and my husband is a youth pastor and does hospital visits at Hopkins sometimes. Please don't hesitiate to call on us if you need something.

Jenna (Bergey) Schmitz (from FCA back in the day :) )
mnjschmitz@comcast.net

Ligon Duncan said...

Allison:

You don't know me from Adam's housecat, but I too love CHBC and Mark Dever. And, I hope I never forget what you taught me in this post. My eyes are welling up with tears just typing this note.

Your debtor and servant,

Ligon Duncan

Todd Pruitt said...

Allison,

I am a pastor and a debtor to Mark Dever. Mark and I have only met once but he has had an immeasurable impact on my ministry. Thank you so much for your words in this post. You have reminded me what success in pastoral ministry truly is.

Geoff said...

Dear Allison,

What a wonderful testimony of God's faithfulness through His servants. Indeed, God gives good gifts to His church.

Geoff Chang

Brad said...

Allison,

Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I can across it on a twitter feed. I am a pastor in Georgia and Mark Dever has been a mentor from afar to me through his books and conference messages. I heard him in person earlier this year at a conference and was so incredibly encouraged and inspired by him. He is a very unique combination of a brilliant mind and a warm pastoral heart. Praise God for this man, and the church he serves, and all these men who have been sent out from there. Thank you for honoring him and sharing your story. Blessings to you!

Brad Evangelista

Farming Family said...

Allison,
Wow what a post. I am so touched by your heart. Any pastor with congregants like you would be crazy to ever feel like Elijah when he was in the cave. We lay people need to be sure that we are expressing the love you posted. In today’s world our elders are to be on the front lines preaching the Word. I know Mark is and you are blessed. My family and I stopped by your church about a year ago. We are so glad to hear you have been blessed with a little gift from God.

Kyle said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story and this video. I was an intern at CHBC in 2003 and very much wanted to be there this weekend. It's wonderful to read of God's mercy in your life through the ministry of CHBC.

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

Allison,

My brother is Patrick Traylor, and Ronna sent me a link to your blog. What a testimony to honest, true Biblical teaching, and an incredible tribute to a man who is clearly led by the Spirit. I enjoyed the video (I had only seen a few still shots on Facebook), and am glad that you have found a church home in CHBC.

Xandra

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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