Friday, December 16, 2011

Ah, the Angst!

I have to admit it--this post is actually a copy of the Christmas letter I'm sending out to some friends and family who aren't (or aren't often) Online. It's a cross between a family newsletter and a ministry-search update. Sorry I didn't take time to find Christmas-y online paper for you. Hope you can pretend!

Dear treasured friends and family,

Last year, there was no newsy post to accompany our family picture, but our family has had a quite eventful 2 years! In June of last year, Jonathan resigned from his pastoral position at Gillett Baptist Church, his first senior pastorate. We moved in with Tammy’s parents, fully expecting to move to a new ministry within a few months, preferably before Tammy’s October due date. At the culmination of a second healthy pregnancy, we welcomed Joshua Seth into our family October 5, 2010. Caleb won our hearts anew as he seemed to be instinctively drawn to love on his little brother.

When Josh was only 5 weeks old, we traipsed down to Tucson, Arizona, where Jonathan candidated as pastor of a church. Thanksgiving week, we learned that the percentage of votes was not high enough. The first week of December 2010, we moved into an apartment here in Madison. When a raise that Jonathan was led to expect in October still hadn’t come through by January 2011, God used this seeming delay to rekindle Tammy’s long-time dream of getting paid to write!

In April 2011, our sweet boy Caleb turned 2. In May, we decided to look for a residence that was closer to our church and either more spacious or more economical—and our God provided us with a place that amazingly met all three qualifications. In August, we moved for the third time in just over a year.

October 2011 was an exciting month for us. Not only did Josh celebrate his first birthday and have his grandparents visit from Pennsylvania, but Tammy met a fairly ambitious goal in her new writing career, and Jonathan finally received his raise—25% of his original salary! We also visited a church in Ohio.

In November 2011, we took a long-overdue trip to visit Jonathan’s family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as well as a church in northwest Pennsylvania. As I write this, we have less than a week before the two of us make our way back to that same church for him to candidate. The plan is for the church to vote on him the following Sunday—that’s right, Christmas Day!

As we hope and (seemingly insanely) plan for our fourth move in one-and-a-half years, our hearts are both heavy and full. The heaviness comes from our tiredness of moving and waiting and not being able to plan ahead, never mind fearing yet another disappointment. We trust that this angst can help us to better appreciate the faith and waiting of the Old Testament saints, who wandered in the wilderness and trusted in a promised a Messiah. Of course, their hope was far more sure than ours, and yet we still do have a certain hope: That same Promised and Expected One will someday return. With Him, the peace and joy and perfect life of which we can only dream will become real; the transitory nature of this life points to that eternal and secure hope.

Even if we do receive yet one more disappointment Christmas Day, our hearts will be full in knowing that God does reign and keep His promises and care about the details of our lives. Along with the author of Hebrews 11, I think these words from “Blessings” by Laura Story describe that tension well:

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win,

We know the pain reminds this heart that this is not our home.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life—the rain, the storms, the hardest nights—
are [God’s] mercies in disguise?

As last Christmas, we unpacked our holiday d├ęcor along with the rest of our belongings, this year we hope to be packing everything away along with our manger scene to move someplace where we can get settled in and live and serve and raise our family. Will you pray with us to that end?

With hope eternal,

Jonathan & Tammy Wagner

This is the version of our Christmas card that I'll be handing out this weekend at what we hope will be our new church home. I created it myself, with one of the family pictures from the photo shoot shown in this video. I created both the Christmas card and video with my digital scrapbooking software.

(As a side note, I'd like to launch a side business marketing these types of products. What do you think? What would you pay for these types of services? Just testing the waters--thanks for your input and your continued prayers!)

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