Julie Caldwell gives reflections on her dad on Father’s Day
Julie Caldwell gives reflections on her dad on Father’s Day
Sara Cooper gives her reflections on getting involved at Taylors FBC and how we should welcome people today.
Normally, the stories told are “selected” because someone has heard about a particular event in someone’s life that has led to a life-changing circumstance. And normally, the reason a story has made it all the way to us is because it is somehow dramatic: it is a story that demonstrates a radical shift in circumstance or action from one point to another. And our culture doesn’t help us here: we love dramatic stories; there is even an entire TV network with the tag line “We Know Drama.”
Dramatic stories are good. They serve a very powerful purpose as they demonstrate the awesome, life-changing power that God can bring about in a life. Our God is so great that He can totally and completely change a life in powerful ways, causing people to be completely different. That said, dramatic stories cannot be the only stories we value.
Most stories in life are not dramatic. Most change occurs so gradually and so incrementally that we struggle to see it happening. Most change feels very insignificant until it is viewed in the scale of years, decades, or of lifetimes. When we put our stories up against these “dramatic” stories of life change, we feel like our stories are not worth telling. We often feel our stories don’t even matter.
Except our stories do matter.
In Frederick Buechner’s book Telling Secrets (pg. 30), he writes,
My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes Himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally.
Your story, no matter how little “drama” you feel is in it, is powerful. The story of God at work in your life, regardless of whether it is over days, months, years, or lifetimes, is a story of redemption that is unique to you. It has the power to connect with someone with whom no other person may ever be able to connect.
We sometimes forget that in God’s eyes, the difference in our story happening over days or decades does not matter. Whether our story starts from the bottom of the bottle or at the age of nine in a church pew doesn’t matter. The fact that we have been saved by the same grace through faith means that our story has value.
So the next time you have the opportunity to tell your story, whether during an open, honest conversation with someone or via electronic medium, don’t for one second believe that your story has no value. Your story matters. Your story has the ability through the grace of God to change lives. And that is something.
As we consider these days, our hearts are heavy. They are terrible days for those of us who have lost a child. Other days of the year you can maybe make it a few hours without thinking about your loss; other days of the year you can pretend that you are an ordinary person and that life is normal. But not on Mother’s and Father’s Day.
The real challenge after losing a child is moving forward. It’s almost impossible to envision in that moment of loss, how life can continue after something so horrible. But life does continue, whether we like it or not. There are chores to do and bills to pay. Morning comes again and again. So you pick yourself up and you live, but you are never the same.
At first, we are different because of our raw sadness. But over time the sadness moves from our skin into our bones. It becomes less visible, but no less a part of us. It changes into a wisdom, one we’d give up in a heartbeat to have our child back. We who have lost children understand life’s fragility and beauty. We who have lost children understand that so many things just aren’t important. All that is important are those we love.
It can feel very lonely, being the parent of a child who died. We feel different from those around us, all those happy people with children the same age our child was, or would have been. But over the years, I’ve come to understand that I’m not alone at all.
There is a wonderful story about a woman whose son gets sick and dies. She goes to an earthly idol to ask him to bring her son back to life; “I will,” he says, “if you bring me some mustard seed from the home of a family that has not known loss.” She goes from house to house but can find no family that has not lost someone dear to them. She buries her son and goes back and says: “I understand now.”
That is what I understand now. It doesn’t make me miss my child any less, or Mother’s and Father’s Day any easier. But it helps me make sense of it; loss is part of life. There are no guarantees, ever. Our children, and all those we love, are gifts to us for however long we have them.
I understand now, too, that we are together in this… all of us, in joy and in loss. It’s the connections we make with each other that matter. It’s the connections we make that give life value and help us face each morning. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
Years ago, I chose words to say each time I remember my daughter. And over the years, the words have come to mean more to me. They aren’t just about grief now. They are about who I am, what I have learned, and what I can give. “I will always love you,” I say. “And I will always be your mother.”
God promises that the days when we are at the end of our rope are also the days when His sustaining grace and strength will be most visible and apparent. He doesn’t promise to remove the pain, but He promises that in the midst of it, His grace will sustain us.
God bless you!
Jim Hayes gives his reflections on Taylors FBC’s first mission trip.
Christy Thomas talks about finding community at Taylors FBC.
The warm, welcoming spirit we felt drew us in immediately. We know that the beauty of that spirit has endured through the years at Taylors because we have recently heard the very same testimony from new members.
What seemed such a large church to us quickly became “smaller” as we involved ourselves in some of the many opportunities for ministry and fellowship. We actually had an assigned choir robe before we had a church membership number! Taylors has long been blessed with a wonderful Music Ministry. God has brought amazingly gifted leaders and musicians through the years to lead His people in offering worshipful praise to our Lord. It was truly a joy to participate at various times working with children’s choirs, youth choir, handbell choirs and singing in the adult choir and ensembles.
We believe the most significant characteristic of Taylors, which is vital to the life of the Body, is the value that is placed on God’s Word. The message and truth of God’s Word is preached and taught faithfully here. It has also been sent out from here to many parts of the world through Taylors FBC mission teams and our strong support of the Cooperative Program.
There have been many opportunities for us to be involved in fulfilling God’s call on our lives to teach His Word. I (Rita) began leading Precept Inductive Bible Studies at Taylors in 1987 after meeting a fellow Taylors member at a Leader Training workshop. When she found out I was member at Taylors, her first words to me were, “I have been praying for God to send someone to lead Precept at Taylors.” That was a confirmation of the direction the Lord was leading and for the next seventeen years I had the privilege of leading classes of inductive Bible studies at Taylors. When I think about those years, I often remember Clayton Spruell. In those days, we didn’t have staff present in the building at night, so I was given a key to let myself in. Clayton had the job of coming each evening to make sure the buildings were locked and every week he would meet us at the end of class with his flashlight to see us safely to our cars. He was faithful to be there and always had a smile and encouraging word to send us on our way! Clayton is just one example of the many servant hearts that have passed through Taylors First Baptist Church on their way to Heaven.
One of our first Sunday School teaching opportunities was a young married class in the early part of the 1990’s. We had such an amazing group of couples that we loved so much and we are blessed to see many of them still here and serving as leaders. One of the couples just became grandparents…yes, that makes us feel old!!
In June 2008, we were asked to start a multi-generational Life Group for the traditional service attendees. We must confess it was not something we were anxious to do because we very much enjoyed the contemporary service and this would mean changing services. But after praying it through, we knew this was what the Lord was calling us to do. We were GLAD to do it for the Lord… however, we didn’t know then that it was really about what the Lord was doing for US!
The Link Life Group was birthed in September of 2008 and we had no idea what a personal blessing this group would soon be!
We loved serving and giving in ministry at Taylors. However in 2009, we experienced the Taylors FBC church body from a different perspective…we found ourselves in need of help and ministry. In January 2009, Gary unexpectedly lost his job due to the economy and along with that, of course, his medical insurance. In June, he was diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease that hospitalized him with kidney failure and six weeks later, hospitalized again for a ruptured colon. By September he was basically bedridden due to side effects of the medications. We were reeling.
This is where words fail to communicate the impact of God’s grace through His people at Taylors. Our mailbox was regularly filled with “prayer grams” and cards that encouraged us and many times contained a check to help with medical bills. Men came by to sit with Gary and at other times to cut our grass. A precious sister in Christ, who at the time we did not know that well, made us a book full of Scriptures and hymn texts that were prayed over and chosen just for us, which was such a treasure during the dark days. Financial gifts came from several different groups throughout the church. Our Life Group, The Link, surrounded us with their love and prayers, prepared meals and every week would send me home with funds for our needs that week. They continue to be a huge blessing to us as we meet on Sundays and “LINK up with God and with one another.” The warm and welcoming spirit we felt when we first joined Taylors twenty-nine years ago is alive and well and we are eternally grateful.
God’s plan for us has brought restored health. And now we are looking forward to serving on one of the mission teams, taking the Word of God and His gospel to Salt Lake City!
We praise God for the heart Taylors First Baptist Church has in caring for the household of faith (Galatians 6:10) and for its mission to take the gospel to our community and to the world.