This is my 100th blog! I am celebrating.
Tonight it is my privilege to welcome Teena Stewart as my guest. Teena shares about the loss of financial security and geographical closeness to family, especially for those involved in full-time Christian ministry. Anyone of us who has moved away from home or lost a job can identify with her struggles. Thanks for being my guest tonight, Teena.
In this blog, I have been processing the loss of my daughter to suicide. The experience of loss is universal. What significant loss have you experienced? How has it impacted your writing?
Over the years I’ve experienced numerous losses, as do most people, but the most significant ones include the death of my father at age 50 to cancer and the death of my sister to cancer at age 45.
I am married to a minister and one of the significant losses connected to ministry is that we often have to give up being financially secure and being close to family. We have lived away from extended family for years and have moved many times. I think these losses make you build up walls so that you don’t let people get too close and you try to pad yourself against being hurt or suffering more separation.
Most recently we gave up secure ministry positions in the Bay Area in California to move to Hickory, North Carolina to start a Christian coffee shop ministry. Though it has put us closer to extended family, it is much more isolated and financially challenging than we ever thought it would be. It is taking much longer than anticipated to launch the ministry, but it is happening in God’s time and not ours.
Once we do get it up and running we will have community, but right now we are merely attending local churches and haven’t plugged in to have that sense of friendship and belonging so it is a very lonely existence. And we are living a month to month existence trying to make ends meet not sure whether we will make it the next month or not.
What central truth did you learn through your loss?
I think some of the things we have been through have taught us to value the time we have with people who are dear to us and not to take it for granted. Most recently we left behind some dear friends in California. We’ve learned that if you plan to follow God’s call, even when you think you’ve counted the cost, it can be very costly and you’d better be prepared to grow—and sometimes painfully. You had also better be prepared for being isolated and lonely if you share your visions with people because a lot of people won’t get the visions, even if you are sure that you are within God’s will. Sometimes the most callous people are the ones you think are going to be your advocates.
And I guess also, most recently the reality again that we are meant to be a part of a community and not out there trying to be Christ followers on our own. It brings home again some of the main reasons I wrote my small group book in the first place.
Do you write to escape your circumstances or to process your feelings? Or both? Please share examples.
I write professionally because I think God has called me to do that. Even if I tried to walk away from it, I think I would still have to write. But I also journal to express myself. Only then, especially when I am feeling cut off from people who really understand, can I put down my pain and what I am learning. I believe that some of this journaling, once we have traveled our faith journey a bit longer with Java Journey a bit more, might eventually become a book, or several books.
As for the loss of loved ones, I don’t know that that will ever be more than just my private pain on paper.
What books or characters resonated with you in your time of loss?
Well, I review books, mainly for Christian ministry. But I also read for escape and for spiritual growth. The only book that comes to mind is a recent review I did of Uprooting Anger by Kay W. Camenisch and I was surprised that so much of it resonated with me, even though I don’t see myself as an angry person. We all handle hurts and disappointments differently and they manifest themselves differently but her book helped me see some of my own hurts and work areas.
Most recently the story of Gideon has been speaking to me. I feel that we have so much in common with him on our current faith journey. God chose an ordinary person who wasn’t sure that God called him. And then he gave him very few helpers but provided signs and reinforcement along the way.
You have recently published Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice. Please tell me a little about your book.
My book Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice came about because I saw the value and importance of small group community. Healthy churches have small groups that almost act as mini churches. They are places where people can share their pain, their prayer requests, have a family away from family and learn biblical principles and also have accountability to stand firm in their faith and continue to walk the walk. I think it came about naturally because my husband, Jeff, who was a pastor of small groups and discipleship at our last church and I also was highly involved in ministry and small groups.
The book is intended as an encouragement and equipping resource for those leading small groups or those wishing to start them.
What last words would you like to share with my readers? How can they find out more about what God is doing in your life?
I guess I would say to hold tight when it feels like to rope is unraveling because at the end of the rope is loving Father who is watching to catch you.
Two places you can go to find out more about what’s happening would be http://www.javajourney.org which includes a blog and ezine you can subscribe to (or will include the ezine subscription soon) if you wish to keep up with our coffee shop ministry progress. And then http://www.ministryinmotion.net/teena_stewart.html
There is also my blog http://shoutlife.com/profile_view.cfm?uid=28742
Thanks for letting me share.