A number of us participated in the first gathering of what we're calling the Book Circle. It's kind of like a book club, but with a twist - that we want to read good and provocative books (fiction, non-fiction, possibly but not necessarily written from a faith perspective) and, after reading and talking about the book, decide to shift or change or practice something new as a result of what we've read.
For our first meetup, we read Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, a Pulitzer-nominated novel tracing a family navigating the complexities of mental health across two generations. While the book was our starting point, our conversation quickly shifted to our own experiences, stories, and questions around mental health and wellness.
How do we understand mental health? How do we navigate acute crises in mental health? How might our faith interplay with mental wellness? How might Open Door as a family better walk with each other through complex and difficult seasons?
We didn't arrive at any quick or easy answers - that wasn't the point of our time. But our conversation did guide us toward new practices: normalizing conversations about mental health, opening up about our own stories, making intentional shifts in language around mental health, integrating spiritual practice and practices of mental wellness.
A couple of invitations:
Take some time to learn about an aspect of mental health you don't know much about. Share a story of a mental health challenge you've encountered. Pray for and reach out to someone you know navigating the complexity of mental health. (And join us for the next round of the Book Circle!)
Right before Christmas, I went with to the movie Wonder with the Thrive crew from OD and several of their friends. The movie is about a 5th grade boy who was born with a facial deformity who is going to school for the first time. It chronicles his struggles and triumphs as he integrates back into society after a childhood of homeschool and countless surgeries.
I told the Thrive kiddos they could invite friends and bring their parents, so we ended up having TWENTY-THREE people at the theater that afternoon. It was such a joy to watch the kiddos experience that story, then to hear them excitedly tell each other about all the times the movie made them cry as we gathered in a chaotic cluster in the movie theater lobby afterwards, and finally to hear from the parents the meaningful conversations about the importance of kindness and putting themselves in other people’s shoes that happened in the next few days. I am so thankful for that opportunity for us to experience something so stretching and uplifting together. We have some amazing, thoughtful, and courageous young people in our lives, and I am so grateful to learn from them.
Last Saturday I loaded up my two kiddos and headed over to Project Peace. In the past, whenever I have seen that Project Peace fell on a weekend when my husband Matt was working, I immediately would dismiss the idea of taking the kids myself, assuming we would be too much of a hindrance or distraction and not enough of a “help” to make our presence worthwhile for the group we were supposed to be serving. However, after talking with a few friends, they convinced me that not only would it be a great way to include my children in serving others, but that we actually might be helpful as well!
As I drove over to Concord on Saturday morning, I felt a bit nervous. I wondered what other people would think as I unloaded my 4 year old and 17 month old, but I was also excited to explain to Avery and Jack what we were doing. When we arrived, I was shocked to see how many kids were already at the work site! Kids were playing, and working, and playing some more, and Avery and Jack joyfully ran over to join in the fun. We were quickly given the assignment of cleaning the classrooms, and I was so proud as I watched Avery scrub toys and cribs as she happily chatted (and often took “breaks” to play). Jack quickly became my “trash man”, assigned the important task of putting paper towels in the trash. As a lover of trash cans, he was delighted.
As we worked, I was struck at how much joy all the kids who were present brought to the event. It made me think of the way God intended us to be when He created Eden, joyfully working and tending to the world He created.
Towards the end I found myself apologizing to the Director of the school as my kids were getting progressively louder (and less helpful), but she enthusiastically thanked me for coming and expressed such joy at seeing all the children present. She said it would mean even more to the kids at the school to know that not only adults, but other children came over the weekend to help take care of their school. It has also inspired me to include my children even more in serving others, and not to underestimate how God can use each of us, including our littles, to bless others.
Unfinished Projects, Tim Halls
Lois and I moved to Brazil as new missionaries 40 years ago. At that time, Brazilian evangelicals were just beginning to think about sending missionaries to other parts of the world, and we got involved. This reversal in initiative for mission, where new outreach and the people who supported that outreach would now start in what was once “the mission field,” began to shape our commitments.
We didn’t always stick with that vision, though. We exited lots of projects before the purpose of our participation was actually carried out. The logic of us “being” the missionary forced us to keep the focus on what we could do. And the movement was so new that there wasn’t a lot we could actually do except pray. And we did a lot of that!
When we did work on this movement, we focused more on “potential” than on actual productivity. We could only hope that Latin Americans and Brazilians would eventually live up to the potential we all thought we saw and that they would find ways send their missionaries, bless the nations, and extend the invitation to follow Jesus into new cultural contexts. These events got me thinking about "unfinished projects."
Don’t get me wrong. I admire and aspire to emulate people who start projects and carry them to completion. We need a lot more people like that. But this last year gave me perspective regarding things I didn’t finish.
My projects, being unfinished, connected with movements that produced more than I could. Movements produce great outcomes precisely because they aren’t finished yet. Shared prayers and dreams are great ways to align a movement with God’s promises, and participate in their fulfillment. I am involved today in another new project that I will not finish.
An Invitation: What are you dreaming about? How are you participating with God and others in collaborative movements? What projects are you working toward, even if you may not be there for the project's finish?
Over a year ago Rebecca and I felt a tug that God was inviting us out of Open Door and into a new community closer to where we live, work and play. It was a jarring thought and the fact that Rebecca and I were still at Open Door a year later gives you some insight into how we responded to that invitation.
However, over the past year as we have wrestled with the loss of leaving Open Door and the anticipation of being more connected into our community, we have decided to courageously accept the invitation to be launched from Open Door. Note that we feel this is a launching, not a leaving. Jesus invites us to be His followers wherever we happen to find ourselves and we find ourselves in Albany (not in Walnut Creek) and its time to live more fully into our local community.
So with much emotion we thank you so much for the wonderful 7 year journey that we’ve been on together. Please continue to pray for us as we launch into another crazy adventure of God’s faithfulness. We love you all dearly and wish you the best as you continue to sojourn in the ways of practicing Jesus’ love for the betterment of this world. I am sure we will find ways to partner with you in the coming years!
Love, Darrell, Rebecca, Lillian and Emerson
An Invitation: What might God be calling you into? How might you take steps to listen?