July 13, 2016

When A Chapter Ends

We have had one of those rare jobs where work and life are weaved together. Where does one end and the other begin?

Fourth summer leading a project in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Yellowstone trip with students

Maybe that's what is making the leave from college ministry feel so surreal, because a whole new way of life is ahead of us. It's a rebirth.

Southern Miss staff team 2012

Andrew and I don't know marriage without it. We don't know parenthood without it. I barely know what work life is outside of it.

Fall Retreat at Dauphin Island

Precious students at Auburn in 2008, all of them graduating and being a part of some ministry

People keep asking us how we feel about leaving and I'll tell you what I'm feeling right now... grateful.

Met with these girls all of their four years at Auburn, now some of my dearest friends

I'm grateful that for our whole nine years of marriage, Andrew and I have quite literally worked side by side. We've gone to staff meetings together, shared office space, grieved over students, rejoiced in gospel transformation, held one another's hands as we walked into a greek house to bring good news. For our first four years of marriage, we had the privilege of sitting under Bill Boldt, our campus director at Auburn, who cared about our marriage and our relationship with Jesus more than our ministry... and who can really say that about their boss? We are indebted to him.

At Cru's biannual staff conference in Fort Collins, CO

I'm grateful for the 21 people we have been on staff with over the course of Auburn and Southern Miss. It's almost not enough to say, "We worked together," because we lived together. We wept together and rejoiced together and prayed together and dreamed together. We laughed over failures and celebrated in our homes. We were at each other's weddings and birthdays and in the hospital when babies were born.  And when, inevitably, we have had to part ways... real tears and heart break. We all joke about starting a church together, but in the end it is not a joke. We long for our lives to be put back together again.

Auburn staff team 2009

The Cunninghams are one of the biggest gifts Crusade has given to us. Love them so.

Precious staff friends, Nathan was with Andrew in East Asia and Kim was on our team in Auburn

Met with Claire as a student in Auburn and then she joined our staff team in Hattiesburg!

Anna, one of the friends I would move our whole life around for if we could just live in the same city again

I'm grateful for the opportunities we've had to take the gospel near and far. For the time I was walking around a lily pad pond on an East Asian campus, sharing about the hope of Jesus with a girl who called herself Luna. She told me that she had been checking the Bible out of her library and had been waiting for someone to explain it... wide-eyed at the wonder of Jesus' providences, I got to be a Philip to her.

Summer Project in East Asia, 2008

Grateful for sitting on a campus in South Africa with one of our American students, across the table from two South African girls who heard the real gospel for the first time. They both grasped with white knuckles onto the hope of a Jesus who fulfilled the law for them... one with tears rolling down her face saying, "I had a dream last night that someone would come tell me of spiritual freedom like this." God always working and preparing the roads before us.

Summer Project in South Africa, 2009
Working at an AIDS hospice in South Africa was one of the most humbling experiences of my entire life

Grateful for the thousands of times Andrew has brought fraternity guys into our home, rough and weary from their world on campus. Andrew looking them square in the eye and telling them that eternity matters, and that right now matters for eternity. For the times he has left our house early to walk into the doors of those dark houses, to pray with and for the men who live there... to beseech our God on their behalf to remove the veil and give them hope. I'm grateful for the fruit of those prayers and that God allowed us to watch behind the curtain of his saving mercies-- for all the phone calls Andrew has gotten, some in the middle of the night, of fraternity guys... y'all, FRATERNITY GUYS... sharing the gospel with their brothers. So many new mercies every day.

After Andrew and I led a Relationship Panel in a sorority chapter room

Ministry planning with students is always a highlight

Annual Cru Christmas party at our house

For being able to take students to Chicago, Boston, New York, and across the oceans to show them a God who lives outside of their known worlds. Who is working and moving in so many ways and for the grace He offers us that we get to be a part of His great works of redemption.

Spring Break to NYC, 2014

Spring Break trip to Boston, 2010

Students in South Africa

I'm grateful for all the times we've had the greatest privilege of teaching the Word to others. For Ephesians over coffee in a bagel shop in Auburn. For Psalms on our couches. For James being taught by Andrew in our big group weekly meeting. For Genesis with a girl who is struggling to believe in a God who is trustworthy.

Will, one of the first students Andrew met with at Auburn

Auburn students in Jackson Hole, 2010

Grateful for this season of our life when our boys can come alongside of us in ministry. For students who love on our children like family, who have become stand-in aunts and uncles when theirs are far-away. Wilson calls them all his "big friends." Although I don't think we've ever taken a true "just-us" family vacation since we've had children-- the boys have been on many a cross-country trip to our summer assignment in Wyoming, to conferences in Atlanta and Orlando. What an incredible gift for them! I remember being very pregnant with Wilson, standing at the back of a weekly meeting at Auburn, singing "How He loves us" with a chorus of a hundred students... and I was thinking, "Wilson, you cannot even fathom how He loves you. What love to grow up with His gospel being proclaimed in front of you and behind, on every side."

Fall Retreat in Gulf Shoes, 2014

Sam packing Charlie for me in Jackson Hole!

Students in Jackson Hole, 2013
I'm grateful that our home can be a refuge, imperfect though it may be. For seeing students sigh a relief when they walk in the door to sit on couches and eat dessert and be in the midst of a family who is looking to Jesus. They've seen us fail and I'm hopeful that they've seen us run to Jesus when we do- but  I'm grateful that our job has caused us to open up the doors of our lives and let young adults be a part of  the real workings of the gospel in a family's life.

Grateful to watch our students get married and start families and to know that their lives of following Jesus in college will have ripple effects throughout eternity. That our time investing in them in two, three, four short years will bear fruit in their children's and grandchildren's lives. It's simply incredible. 

Watching Emily get married was one of the best moments of my life

And are we ever grateful for our ministry partners! For those who have seen eternal significance in bringing the hope of Jesus to college students. For the ones who have provided the means for us to wake up every day to work zealously to get light into dark places. For the ones who have not only been financial support, but emotional support--calling us to encourage us. Who have provided books to give to our students. Who have sent us notes of affirmation and love. Who have hosted dinners and desserts for students in their homes. Who have sincerely asked how to pray for us and have done great battle for us at the throne of God. We are humbly grateful for such loyal friends, holding the rope on our behalf.

Andrew's parents came to almost every Fall Retreat to help us with meals, so grateful for them!

A precious friend from church hosted a senior dinner in her home for the past three years

And we are grateful for the hard. For the times when our bank account hovered at zero, and we had to trust in a God who knows all of our needs. For being weary of the constant packing of bags and being on the road... and being reminded that we are indeed travelers in this world, and there is coming an eternal rest. For all the heart-breaking goodbyes every six months as students and staff transition, for hearts that were knit together to be pulled in so many directions. For conflict and really hard conversations, for our sin to before us and the grace to grieve and repent. For the times we wept with students over broken relationships, broken hearts, broken families. All of it is good. All of it has been used for our good.

Andrew has spent eight of his nine birthdays in Atlanta for Christmas Conference

When I said yes to Andrew's marriage proposal, I knew I was saying "yes" to college ministry and it was all really foreign to me. I remember telling him that I felt like Abraham, when God called him to leave his home and he obeyed, not knowing where he was going. I couldn't fathom the land of milk and honey waiting for us.

And here we are again... only this time we are staring into a year of full-time seminary, a season of education and growth. And in May, after graduation, there is another great unknown. We are in the process of being assessed for church-planting with the PCA, but even that carries so much fog. Where will we be in a year? In what capacity will the Lord be using us to bring His gospel to dark places? We don't know, but we know that we are following a Good Shepherd who has led us to green pastures and will not forsake the sheep of His pasture.


Amy Jaeger said...

E- I love this so so much.

Anonymous said...

I only know you in passing from many years ago. Having just now complete my first year out of vocational ministry after working my first 12 in. All I can say is that there will be some days that are absolutely dark, but God is still good and He still rules. You will grow tremendously and even grow closer as a couple. Blessing on your both.

trecia said...

That is so beautiful and your heart is so sweet! God is good !!