On April 30th, we were truly blessed and amazed that God called Pete Haugen and his wonderful family to serve with us in Papua New Guinea. I've known Beth for four years now. We've been choir friends, shared some of the same beliefs about food, our daughters have become friends, and this year, God put us only two blocks from each other and put us in the same congregations. Our husbands became friends, and discussions happened...looking back, I can see the Holy Spirit has been working a long time to make this happen, and I couldn't be more thrilled. God is good.
What got my attention was that apparently one of the dearest people in my life teared up when she found out and said "Now Lora won't be alone." I was deeply touched, and didn't know that was a concern for her...because honestly, that thought had barely crossed my mind. In a physical sense, aside from Jeff, my very best friend, I'm used to being alone. You want to talk not having a niche -- try being a confessional Lutheran, conservative Republican, homeschooling, organic food-lovin', low-carbing, "kids can't have milk so this potluck is going to be difficult" woman in Los Angeles. EVERYONE thought we were weird, most especially our own families and congregation. And then take that same person and put her in a small town in Indiana. Yep,no niche there, either. :)
I can do alone.
But the main reason I can do alone is that I really haven't been alone. Some people criticize internet friendships, but the women (and their husbands) on my Lutheran homeschool email list have been my community. They have been dear friends. They have been sisters, and God has used them mightily to shape who I am today.
I remember a friend telling me about Martin Loopers because she had a relative on it. I signed up and the first set messages that came across my screen, these nutcases were talking about tanning deer hides with brains (apparently I had just missed the huge blowup about how to properly make your own vanilla). Surprisingly, this had been a relief-- we had just gotten back from a park where there was a statue of John C. Fremont, and I heard a homeschool mom tell her kid about how he was a bad man because he had a gun.
A few years ago, I took a full-time job and I was listening to a coworker who was hurting. She was talking about how painful the Christian life was "trying to do this and trying to do that." I remember it being so easy to tell her that wasn't the Christian life. The Christian life is that we never can be good enough, and God already knows that. He loves us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us because we couldn't be good enough. I explained the difference between law and gospel, and she had tears in her eyes when she realized the burden wasn't all on her, because there were so many burdens all on her.
Getting in the car that night, I remember wondering "where did that come from?" Yes, I know - the Holy Spirit put me in a place where she could hear the gospel from a friend when she needed it. But how did I learn to do that? I was always so reticent about discussing faith with others....except my friends on this email list. We had more theological discussions than I could ever begin to count...in between the talks about curriculum, homeschooling styles, whether or not to keep chickens, cloth diapering, birth control, our kids' accomplishments, our husband's job struggles, our kids getting married, the economy, etc. Some of those posts, I remember editing for hours on end before I hit send, because if something was phrased wrong, they would jump on it and I'd have to clarify or defend what I'd said. At times, it seemed petty, but it made me learn to express myself on these issues carefully, concisely, and lovingly.
This year, my practicum in Mental Health Counseling has been just as much the same thing. Thanks to these women, I know my Bible and my Catechism, and I am not afraid to pull them out to bring comfort, to teach, to use as a guide...to help a fellow Christian when they are hurting, through the mutual consolation of believers. My college degrees didn't shape me into this kind of counselor. My friends did.
My friends also are the ones who shaped me into a missionary. Jeff wanted to do this right out of seminary, and there honestly is no way that I could have. Over the last ten years, these women have taught me alternative ways to keep house, new ideas in nutrition like Nourishing Traditions, ways of being self-sufficient in my thoughts and my practices, good brands of support shoes, lacto-fermentation, what reverse culture shock looks like, how to question the way things are generally done....and they have also made me feel very comfortable in not being perfect.
They also, above all, gave me respect and love. They gave me so much, but then let me know that I have given them so much, too. We've shared our joys and pains (and insecurities), patiently listened to each other's ventings, and sometimes put each other in line. At times, they've shared the other precious people from their lives into mine. I could go on and on.
Living near Fort Wayne these ten years, I have been tremendously blessed to not only know these women online, but to get together with them in person, either on retreats, or with the wonderful friends that actually live close by. This year, I even have the ability of seeing a couple of them at least once a week, and they keep an eye on my kids if we are not there, and our kids have been friends to each other. Some Loopers have partnered with us in our missionwork and their congregations have been an amazing encouragement to us.
I'm not alone. There is no way I am giving up these good friends, or the good friends I have made through these good friends. And God has let me know that I am not. When we were in Papua New Guinea, the very plastic plates that we ate on were designed by Looper kids that I knew. That was an amazing encouragement on a very scary day.
Even if I have to wait hours to get the list to download, just like I did when I first got on the list, I will still be there and a part of it (probably better than I am now with this practicum), I will need them, I am sure.
Thank you, ladies (and your wonderful husbands). You are indeed my best friends and my sisters. You are amazing. I love you dearly.
(and a few more pics will be added soon)