Sunday, July 5, 2015




“We need to know that love is real, that it endures, that a world of love is planned for us and waits for us, and that we can count on it.” John Eldredge, Epic, p. 26.
As I think about writing my life story, I know that it begins long before my birth.  So much of who I am is linked to all the family that preceded my coming into the world.  Especially my parents.  Over the years, as I was growing up and even now after both parents have been reunited in heaven, I learned more and more about their lives.
My mother, Jane, was the daughter of Clara and Austin, and had an older brother.  Living on Chicago’s south side, her childhood was one of sidewalk games, going to the Methodist church, and a circle of close girlfriends (who together sneaked away to visit the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair).  She was the first in her family to graduate from high school.  Still in her early 20s, with World War II calling men into the armed forces, Jane became the manager of a local Jewel (the Chicago version of Kroger) store.
My father, Willis, was the son of Lydia and Arthur, and had two younger sisters.  Raised in Rock Island, Illinois, his childhood was one of home chores (trimming wicks and filling kerosene lamps), fishing with his father, school, and church. He played the bassoon well enough to get a partial scholarship to supplement his savings from a series of part-time jobs to enable him to be a “commuter” student at Augustana College—the first in his family to go to college.  A graduate assistantship (tutoring first year Spanish students) enabled him to earn a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois. Passing his CPA exam with flying colors, Willis moved to Chicago to begin work at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm—a career that lasted until his retirement.
Willis and Jane didn’t meet in Chicago, but at a Lake of the Ozarks resort where both went on vacation with friends.  There, they found that they lived in the same apartment building, but entered through doors on different intersecting streets.  Love blossomed quickly, but Willis’s entry in the Navy postponed their marriage until the end of the war.
Their marriage, in many ways, was a composite of every 1950s family sitcom.  Willis commuted to work from their suburban home in Westchester, and was a model active citizen—serving on the local school board and as Sunday School “superintendent.”   Jane was a housewife and volunteer extraordinaire—Girl Scout leader, school room mother, volunteer at the local VA hospital, Sunday School teacher.
Throughout their marriage, their devotion to each other, their daughters (my sister and me), and God was palpable—never more so than the last years of their life together when Willis lived with Alzheimer’s.
Like the Epic Story John Eldridge describes, my story has a golden past bathed in love.  Once upon a time.
"For God has, may I remind you, set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11)." - John Eldredge
My mom recently gave me a stack of letters that she had written to my grandparents, her parents, during her pregnancy with me and the first year of my life.  My grandmother had kept them, and when she passed away, Mom retrieved them back.  Each one was lovingly written in her beautiful, careful script, full of excitement and preparation awaiting my birth, and when I came the day after Christmas, full of unconditional love.  Reading and handling each one gives me a sense of belonging.  I was waited for and wanted.  Loved and cherished.  I wrote a poem after reading the first one:
Mom about 5 months pregnant with me in 1966
It was only days
until December 25th, 1966,
the day
I was supposed to be born.
Festive lights twinkled                                       
on Baker Avenue,
festooning apartments
in Cincinnati.
I was waited for,
dreamt about.
The nursery
was decorated
with a clown lamp,
and my mother sat in the
rocker and imagined
2:00 am feedings with
its 25 watt bulb,
dim and peaceful.
A scotch pine stood watch                                           
in the balcony window,
and unfallen snow
weighed heavy in the
steel gray clouds,
for a white Christmas
and a baby
to arrive.

How blessed we are when we're wanted and loved.  The decorations in my nursery were picked out specifically for me, baby clothes bought, washed, and folded into drawers, a lamp placed by a rocker for late night feedings.  My story began before I was even born, and it was full of love.  Amazing.
Not everyone was as fortunate as I, though.  Some children are born into broken homes, poverty, abuse, already addicted to drugs, or are unwanted.  Not everyone begins life with a decorated nursery and parents who love each other and await to love their children.  Regardless of whether or not your Earthly parents awaited you with loving anticipation, you can be assured your Heavenly Father did; once upon a time He knitted you together in the womb, loved you before and at birth, and He loves and awaits you now, carefully preparing a place for you in Heaven.  The lamp is already on.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." -  Psalm 139:13
Discussion questions Act One: Eternal Love

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1: 1-2 (NIV)
1. Consider this second “In the beginning” scripture:
a. What is the apostle John describing in these verses?
b. What does this passage say about “the beginning” of the Story?
c. What does the passage say about God?
d. For starters, what did this chapter in Epic stir up in you? New thoughts, questions, an “ah ha” moment?
2. The Triune God is ultimately relational. Our origins are relational, and this is why we are relational, for we are created in His image. What does it mean to say that we are relational? How does that help your understanding of the Trinity?
3. On page 24-25, John writes about the feeling of belonging when he visits his grandfather’s ranch. Tell a story about a time when you felt you belonged to a larger story.
4. How have you felt the longing to belong in your life—both in your youth and today?
5. One of the realities of a Larger Story is that Life is not all about you. You’re precious, important, and valuable; you have a crucial role to play.  But this story is about something bigger than you.  How does that make you feel?
6. Have you thought of God as being part of your story this week?  How? Conversely, have you thought of yourself as being part of God’s story this week?  How?

Continue to fill in the various seasons of your life with the good as well as the painful memories you’ve experienced through others.  Include those times you were invited up and into some unfolding fellowship (or the times you wish you had been).  Add those memories to the story you began to write last week.


  1. Discussion 1 a,b,c, and d:
    I believe that John is speaking of the prequel of "us". I have always found these particular words powerful, because, to me, it means that as God was creating this world for us, that Jesus was right there and in conversation with the Father. The triune of fellowship in perfect glory choosing to bring us in to the ultimate story of love.
    This passage reminds not only of Gods great love but also his desire to be in relation with us. As we know some of the story after the prequel we see a God who goes to great lengths to invite us back into the story, the family that we were created for and to be in. After some processing, this passage stirs in me a sort of confession that I have not given God the part of our relationship that he deserves- all of my love and attention. I often choose other things to short sidedly fill my attention and push him off after all he has done for me. I ask again for his forgiveness!!

    1. The discussion of God and his desire to be in relation of us reminds me of the portion of the Truth Project that talked about the Trinity and how it's reflected in the family and church. I'm amazed that God wants to be in communion with us. You're right - we often choose other things that interfere with our attention to God, and He wants so badly to communicate and fellowship with us. We often miss out on that powerful connection!

    2. One of the major story lines in the bible is how God continually tries to be in relationship with us and his creation. Unfortunately we always disappoint. While having brief "flings" with God we always fall away and embrace selfish wants. But God never gives up, He always finds a remnant and begins the process all over again. It is not enough that you or I love God and are in intimate relationship with him. God wants his ENTIRE creation to be in relationship with Him and each other. His forgiveness is abundant even though our love is fleeting.
      Tom Way

    3. Tom - so many snippets I love about this post: "He always finds a remnant and begins the process all over again." I'm in constant amazement about that. WHY does he continually try to woo me back? I'm hopeless it seems! And the word "flings" - that's a perfect description of our feeble attempts to commune with Him. "His forgiveness is abundant even though our love is fleeting." Thank GOD!

    4. Well stated Tom! Like Holly I resound with these snippets and David's heart when he asked, "who am I that you would love me?"

    5. In this string of posts, the differing language about us and God is striking. We are disappointing, fleeting, selfish, having flings, inattentive--in short, we are sinful and unworthy. God is trying, wanting, forgiving, loving in spite of our unworthiness. Like the potter and clay analogy, we are lumps of clay--useless, unformed, and lacking beauty until we yield to the potter/God who can mold us into forms of beauty and purpose.

  2. As we think about the centrality of relationships in our human nature as created by God, a video gives food for thought. Ironically, I became aware of the video in a Facebook posting today by Pastor Peter Larson. Check it out at
    Certainly technology can divert our attention from relationships, not only with each other, but with God.

    1. I wasnt able to click on the link, but I agree with you about the technology aspect. But if it wasn't technology, it would be something else as the Enemy seeks to draw our attention away from God and the truth of his love.

    2. try copying and pasting the link.

    3. Thank you Holly and Nina for so creatively sharing your own stories. Any love that has been experienced, I believe, lifts us all up and both your stories do just that. It makes me mindful of being a parent (albeit of grown children!) and the impossible, beautiful, yet imperfect love we have for our children. One thing that struck me is on pg. 26 "We need to know that love lasts." and the experience of the enduring love I have for my children gives me a glimpse into the boundless love that God has for us. (Deut.31:6) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” I have always been comforted that God will never leave me nor forsake me. A love that is unbroken. A love that lasts.


    4. I thought it was amazing when Eldredge pointed out that children want to know that their parents love each other even more than they want to know that they are loved by their parents. We want so badly to know that love came before us and that love will come after us. Even if that doesn't happen in some children's families, everyone can be assured that God's love is perfect and everlasting. "A love that is unbroken. A love that lasts." Amen!

    5. Early in my teaching career I worked at a state facility and many of the children that I interacted with had experienced abuse. One of the things I learned there is that no matter the abuse, young children always wanted to go home to their parents. Young children had hope and an ability to forgive which was shocking to me in my early twenties. I resonate with your comments, Holly, about those who have not had the love many of us experienced in our home of origin. I know that early damage takes so much to repair, so, not only for me, but also for those without comfort and protection as children, those who suffer from abusive environments, the "I will never leave you nor forsake you" gives me hope for them. With my early experiences working in a state institution I can see Eldredge's comment about children needing to know their parents love each other - that love is the foundation of a safe and stable home. Thank you for acknowledging those who have not experienced that. I am reading a book called "Tatoos on the Heart" by Fr. Greg Boyle and those stories speak to the redeeming power of love - even if it didn't come in childhood.


    6. Right now I'm reading Home, a book by Toni Morrison--and the theme of the novel resonates so well with what Jeri has written. Like the prodigal son, we all long for home and the affirming love of a father. What a comfort it is to know that in our heavenly Father, we have that eternal home and love.

    7. Isn't that something that abused children still want to go home? It IS shocking that children have such a capacity to love and forgive. The Boyle book sounds good, Jeri.

    8. Jeri, thank you for sharing your experiences with this " unfathomable love and forgiveness". I have seen these very things in my own childhood, in my extended family, and families that I serve at the Y. I never understood it, but always wanted to. I will be checking out that book too...

    9. Jesus understood the unconditional love of children.
      If God is love........
      Then the kingdom of God is love........
      Thus, to enter the kingdom one must love as only a child can love.

      "And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:3 NIV)

      Tom Way

    10. Tom, thank you for sharing that verse - it is always one that humbles and touches me.


  3. Discussion Question 3:
    Eldridge says, "Something preceded us. Something good. ...Life doesn't rest on our shoulders, but invites us up into it." There have been 3 special times in my life when I was swept over by a wave of feeling about the larger story. Upon the birth of my daughter Holly, I remember the impactful realization that there was a line of women before me - my mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and on back in my lineage, whose DNA, love, and Christian beliefs were carried to me, and now, through me, to a new generation. The same feelings swept me again at the births of my 2 granddaughters. But this time, I was further back in the line, and realized that they will be going into a future beyond what I will see. I think that glimpse of continuity gave me a taste of God's long, larger story. His Epic, so grand that Ecclesiastes says we cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end, overwhelms me. Isn't it miraculous that we are all invited in! I'm so grateful for the generations before me, and that God is weaving Holly, Libby, and Katie and all of us into the rest of the story, all the way to the finale. What an amazing, loving, magnificent Author!
    Jane M.

    1. It does seem to be most clear that there is a bigger story going on when a baby is born! Many past generations go into the DNA of that baby, and the combinations make something completely unique. "We are all invited in" into the fabric of forever!

    2. Bring a parent of 4 children the miracle of birth never got old. Creation at it finest, I am still in awe. Such a small chapter..such a BIG event,
      Tom Way

    3. Thinking about "the generations before me" --it is a curiosity we all seem to have to know our roots, to record the family tree. Interestingly, genealogy seems to be important to God as well--like the record in Matthew's gospel tracing Jesus's ancestry all the way back to Adam.

  4. Tom Way Question 3: Being part of a larger story.....
    I wrote the reflections and poem below in 2006.

    Sharlotte and I flew to Norfolk, Va. to visit our son, Matt. There were a number of reasons we flew out.
    1) To see the church where he’d be married in September and to see the reception hall where we would celebrate his marriage.
    2) Matt turned 24 last Sunday, we celebrated his birthday.
    3) Matt re-enlisted for 3 more years. We went to support his decision.

    With all that was going on, Matt re-enlisting, caused me to reflect during the flights out and back. The words of the prophet Jeremiah are most appropriate for one of my most vivid memories of Matt’s naval career to date.

    We hoped for peace
    but no good has come,
    for a time of healing
    but there was only terror. ( Jeremiah 8:15 NIV)

    I’ll never forget Sunday September 9th, we had brought dinner to Matt and ate with him in the mess aboard his ship. 2 days later, 9/11, terrorism gripped the world and I wondered when I would see Matt again

    We hoped for peace… but there was only terror.

    The rest of my reflections are summarized in this prayer.

    Six years ago
    He came to me
    “Dad, I’ve signed up,
    I’m off to sea”

    And from my porch,
    My tears did well.
    I watched his friends,
    Bid him farewell.

    He’s been to sea,
    And back again.
    And now a girl,
    Is his best friend.

    The world has changed,
    Since he’s been in.
    The war on terror,
    We try to win

    LORD, Peace on earth
    Is all I pray
    So, that my son,
    At home, will stay

    I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

    1. Gosh, I can't imagine what it must be like for a parent to have a child be away at war or the possibility of being at war. That's when faith and trust in God and the bigger story is the hardest to hold on to, but so necessary! Thank you for sharing this.

    2. "But take heart! I have overcome the world!" oh how many times have I forgotten that. Thank you Tom for sharing and bringing remembrance.

  5. I was really struck by what John Eldredge says about how we need to know that love is real and that it endures, that a world of love is planned for us and waits for us, and that we can count on it. That is so true!
    "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jer 29:11) and what about "I go to prepare a place for you. and If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3). We have that assurance! God not only gives us that assurance in His Word, but He writes the story on our hearts!
    As a child, I remember sitting on my grandparents front porch, listening to the grownups catching up on all the news from that little town in Arkansas. Somehow, the Nutt family would always come up. My Granddaddy would say something like, "Yep, she was a Nutt. There was a whole family of Nutts in that area". As I look back, I know he said that for my benefit, because I always had to giggle at the thought of a whole family of Nuts! Granddaddy was a story teller and told lots of funny stories about growing up bilingual in Missouri (German and English). I have always felt like part of a larger story. But to feel like part of THE story - that feels really good!
    I apologize if this is posted twice - it didn't seem to go through the first time.

    1. I love this Karen! I would have loved to sit on that front porch with you! Especially loved the "He writes the story on our hearts"

    2. Karen, you share how important family stories are. As we grow older, they mean more and more. Being in the family of God is like that, isn't it. :-) Thank you for sharing your sweet memories.

    3. Karen, what fun to remember those good times of your youth - thank you for sharing! I could see an image of the porch in my mind and sense your joy. It helped me recall still, quiet country nights at my aunt and uncle's farm when I was little. Lovely memories.

      I agree with Jane, that those stories become more precious as we age. I find myself wanting to delve further into my lineage as I get older, aware that some stories are heart-warming while others become a cautionary tale. Both types of stories have been significant in my life - the first (heart-warming stories) for obvious reasons, the last (cautionary tales) because that is where I come to the end of myself and my resources and learn the depth of God's love and grace.


    4. How come it is the cautionary tales, after we have used up our resources that we turn to God? Shouldn't He be our primary resource? I am guilty as well.
      Tom Way

    5. Is it bad that I have come to love and appreciate the cautionary tales because of the strong drive to my Father?

    6. Karen,
      I would have been giggling, too, at your granddaddy's references to the Nutts. Ha. Stories on the front porch...such a precious time of multi-generational bonding and strengthening. Once again, we see how stories tug at our heartstrings.

    7. Hi Karen, your story reminded me of the many times I sat in the summer in the back yard and listened to the grown-ups tell stories. Some very funny but some very sad. Both of my parents had abusive parents and at the time beating children was excepted. However as an adult it helped me to understand why our family was so dysfunctional. My parents were married for 56 years when my dad died. They were married during WW II and mom was just 16. Their life together was a constant challenge but we knew they loved each other and our family. There were five children I was the eldest and my baby sister was born when I was 16. Peggy and I and Mom are all that is left of the family. Without a very strong faith in our Father we could not survive. He is my constant companion.

    8. Heather, I agree that is all of our tales - the happy and the painful that lead us home and I too am grateful for the ones that have deepened my faith and my walk. As I reflect about the stories in the Bible there are stories of great pain and suffering, all to show us the abounding love of our God and our commonality as we walk the earth. And Carolyn, your story, which is your life, is so moving as well as hopeful and admirable. As I look at a portion of my own story, when my beloved mother died from senior-onset alcoholism, I was sent on a journey that connected me even deeper to Our God. I would not treasure Him or know Him so well I think without that difficult and rich journey. You put it beautifully "without a strong faith - we could not survive - He is my constant companion." Amen Karen. You are a wise and brave woman.